More than 40% of the rainforest remaining on Earth is found in the Amazon and it is home to at least 10% of the world’s known species. The Amazon River accounts for roughly 16% of the world’s total river discharge into the oceans. The Amazon River flows for more than 6,600 km and, with its hundreds of tributaries and streams, contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world. The Amazon basin is one of the largest and mostly undisturbed forest ecosystem that still has the potential to be conserved and managed sustainably.
Equally important, the Amazon plays a critical regional and global role in climate regulation. Amazon forests help regulate temperature and humidity, and are linked to regional climate patterns through hydrological cycles that depend on the forests. The Amazon contains 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, the release of even a portion of which could accelerate global warming significantly. Still, land conversion and deforestation in the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year, not including emissions from forest fires.
The Amazon includes 610 protected areas, as well as 2,344 indigenous territories that cover 45 percent of the basin. The area is predominantly covered by dense moist tropical forest, while 14 percent of the Amazon is wetlands. Less extensive areas include savannas, floodplain forests, grasslands, swamps, bamboos and palm forests. About 33 million people live in the Amazon watershed, deriving their livelihoods from rivers and tributaries, including fisheries.
The major threats to the Amazon biome include transportation infrastructure (roads), extractive industries (mining, oil and gas), water infrastructure (dams, extraction, usage, waterways), and agricultural expansion driven primarily by commodity production, all of which, in direct and indirect ways, contribute to deforestation.
What We Do
The GEF established the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program in GEF-6, with participation of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru that together span 83% of the basin. The Program builds on over a decade of work in the Amazon to strengthen biodiversity conservation, reduce deforestation, and improve community livelihoods.
The GEF’s work in the Amazon focuses on improving the management and financial sustainability of protected areas; strengthening sustainable forest management; reducing carbon emissions from deforestation; and incorporating biodiversity management principles (both conservation and sustainable use) into selected sectors that are drivers of deforestation (i.e., agriculture, extractive industries and infrastructure) through policies, sectoral agreements, and/or instruments that engage private sector actors. These interventions together aim to improve the overall connectivity of the Amazon ecosystem, thereby furthering the integrity of the local, regional, and global ecosystem services.
In October 2015, the GEF announced a five-year commitment of US$113 million for the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program. We expect our investment will leverage another $682 million in additional financing.
Since its inception, the GEF has supported the creation of 44 new protected areas in the Amazon region, covering 24 million hectares. GEF’s efforts a significant percentage of the Amazon’s biodiversity, including 56 species that are threatened with extinction.
Managing the Amazon for environmental, economic, and climate benefits requires working across all sorts of boundaries: across countries and between jurisdictions in country; from local communities and indigenous peoples to national ministries and international treaty organizations; and among different ministries.
Based on this assumption, the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes program was the first significant regional investment by GEF to manage terrestrial ecosystems in the Amazon biome that included the participation of multiple countries. The effort will be expanded in GEF-7, potentially including the management of freshwater ecosystems and aquatic resources, formalization or regulation of the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector, and so on.
The program takes a multi-scale and multi-stakeholder integrated approach to protecting the Amazon ecosystem. The regional approach reflects commitment by countries and partner agencies to coordinate actions and priorities that cover a significant portion of the entire ecosystem, with the aim of creating connectivity of the forest across borders, enhancing ecosystem integrity, and achieving biome-wide reductions in deforestation.
The coordinated approach includes expert knowledge sharing between the countries, which will serve as building blocks for deepening transboundary collaboration in addressing shared management challenges that are regional in nature, such as the management of freshwater ecosystems, infrastructure development for transport and energy development, and gold mining, among others. The program as a whole will deliver multiple global environmental benefits, such as maintaining 73,000,000 hectares of forest land, promoting sustainable land management in 52,700 hectares, and supporting actions that will help reduce CO2 emissions by 300 million tons by 2030.
This integrated regional approach will be further strengthened through the Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program. This is a novel effort that seeks to maintain the ecological integrity of entire biomes by concentrating efforts, focus, and investments, as well as ensuring strong regional cross-border coordination.