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Tue Apr 7, 2020, 08:18 AM

13,000 Acres Of Peruvian Primary Rainforest Now A Mix Of Sand Flats, Mercury-Contaminated Ponds


A drone image shows the impact of deforestation and the large number of ponds caused by illegal mining. Image by Jason Houston for the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Scientists who spent five years studying the impact of illegal mining in Peru’s southeastern Madre de Dios department recently explored that impact in La Pampa, a geographic area in the region. They found that sites where trees once stood tall now resembled desert, with piles of sand and stone covering the ground. As they traversed the land, the researchers found ponds, visible during flyovers, filled with brown, turquoise and green water. The state of these ponds suggested to them that the tropical forest in the area may not rebound.

“There are 5,377 hectares [13,287 acres] of forest that have been converted into ponds of water. In other words, the tropical forests are not going to return; they will be gone for several generations,” said Luis Fernández, executive director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA) and assistant research professor in the university’s Department of Biology. To determine the extent of these ponds containing mercury and cyanide, the researchers examined changes in the ground between 2016 and 2019 with the help of images from drones and satellites.

According to the study published by the team from CINCIA, there has been extensive “conversion of forested landscapes to Amazonian wetlands through gold mining.” The mining ponds dug in La Pampa to separate gold from ore cover nearly a third of the 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of forest in the area.

EDIT


A map of La Pampa and the Tambopata National Reserve analyzed by the researchers. Image courtesy of CINCIA.

Fernández said restoration plans for areas that now contain ponds are practically impossible to execute, given that trees cannot be planted where the ground no longer exists. “A vast and novel complex of wetlands has been created in an area that, historically, was primary tropical forest, radically altering biodiversity and the potential recuperation of the ground,” the CINCIA study says. Fernández called this a violent transformation on a landscape-wide level, since new wetlands have been created and it is unknown what effects will be caused by these ponds filled with toxic metals like mercury and cyanide. “How will these metals affect the wildlife that is returning?” he said.


Deforestation in La Pampa caused by more than a decade of illegal mining. Image by Jason Houston for the International League of Conservation Photographers.

EDIT

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/a-third-of-perus-la-pampa-forest-cleared-for-illegal-mining-ponds-study-finds/

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Reply 13,000 Acres Of Peruvian Primary Rainforest Now A Mix Of Sand Flats, Mercury-Contaminated Ponds (Original post)
hatrack Apr 2020 OP
Mickju Apr 2020 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Tue Apr 7, 2020, 04:55 PM

1. I guess we are just utterly fucked.

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