Why Chop the Amazon Rainforest in Half?

ALERT researchers released today a one-minute video that shows how a massive development scheme in Brazil could effectively chop the Amazon — the world’s greatest rainforest — in half.

Brazil is currently working to complete a dramatic upgrade to the BR-319 Highway, an 870 kilometer-long road segment running between the city of Manaus in central Amazonia to Porto Velho in southern Amazonia.

Once completed, this road will link directly to the BR-174 Highway, which runs from Manaus to the northern border of Brazil.

Together, the two paved highways will slice the Amazon in half along a north-south axis.

Brazil has already completed a giant bridge, spanning 3.6 kilometers in length, that traverses the Rio Negro (“Black River”) near Manaus.  The bridge will help to connect the two highways together.

Not Enough Protection

Some protected or indigenous areas are in place along the BR-319 route but they are not nearly enough to staunch the impacts that will arise from cutting open the Amazon so profoundly to human activities.

In the past, paved highways in the Amazon have frequently opened a Pandora’s box of human impacts, including large-scale deforestation, fires, illegal logging, wildlife poaching, illicit gold mining, and land speculation.

For example, the BR-163, another paved highway that slices across the southern Amazon, resulted in a massive line of human-lit forest fires that would have been visible from the moon.

The Amazon video was written and produced by ALERT director Bill Laurance, with the videography done by Laurie Hedges.  Laurance has been studying the impacts of forest fragmentation and road development on Amazonian ecosystems since 1996.

ALERT member Philip Fearnside, another leading Amazon expert, has been warning about the severe environmental impacts of upgrading the BR-319 into a major highway for more than a decade.

Amazonian rainforests are probably the biologically richest ecosystems on Earth.