VT Scientists work to preserve biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest

From VT News:

July 8, 2015

The Amazon Basin’s vast tropical rainforests, rivers, and soils are rich ecosystems vital to the basic functioning of the planet. They churn moisture into the atmosphere, sequester global carbon, regulate climate patterns, and house much of the world’s biodiversity.

But those extensive, interconnected ecosystems are increasingly fragmented and degraded by unsustainable agriculture and ranching, illegal logging, unmitigated mining, and exploitative commercial fishing practices.

Scientists from Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment — economists, fisheries and wildlife biologists, and international policy experts — are deeply engaged in the region, working in the Amazon’s critical ecosystems to understand and help reshape the daily land-use and natural resource management decisions that are currently driving deforestation, over-fishing, water degradation, and social inequity.

PescaLeandro Castello, assistant professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, recruits community-based fishermen to guide fisheries management, leveraging local knowledge of habitat and ecology for the conservation of arapaima — a 400-pound, air-breathing, bird-eating top-predator fish species so relentlessly fished its localized extinctions have rewritten what has been long believed about the self-balancing nature of fisheries management.

“Many, many fishing communities are developing their own management strategies,” Castello pointed out. “They are the ones asking scientists and governments to better manage fisheries.”

Now is the time to reverse current trends, according to Castello.

“In Brazil’s Amazonas State — an area of about 1.5 million square kilometers — there have been significant strides,” he said. “The arapaima fishery there is coming back, whereas it was going under 10 years ago.”

In other places things are not looking as promising, but Castello says his research “has the primary goal of influencing policy, not just creating knowledge. I think there is evidence with the arapaima that it has helped.”

Read the full story at VT NEWS.

 
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