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Environmental impact assessment in Brazilian Amazonia: Challenges and prospects to assess biodiversity

Journal article
Authors Camila Ritter
Gabriel McCrate
R. Henrik Nilsson
Philip M. Fearnside
Ulrika Palme
Alexandre Antonelli
Published in Biological Conservation
Volume 206
Pages 161-168
ISSN 0006-3207
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 161-168
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12...
www.sciencedirect.com/science/artic...
Keywords Amazonia, Belo Monte Dam, BR-319 highway, Brazil, Juruti mine, Taxonomic inventories
Subject categories Biological Sciences

Abstract

© 2017 The AuthorsEnvironmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has the goal of providing decision makers with an indication of the likely environmental consequences of planned actions risking environmental changes and, when necessary, allowing revision of these actions to mitigate adverse impacts. Here we provide an overview of the efficiency of EIA with emphasis on Brazilian Amazonia and discuss the problems and challenges with this type of assessment in highly diverse ecosystems. We concentrate on the methodology and performance of EIAs for three of the most recent and largest infrastructure projects in Amazonia: the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, the BR-319 Highway, and the Juruti bauxite mine. We conclude that all of these EIAs fall short of properly assessing the expected impact of infrastructure development in situ, and that their results had little or no effect on policy decisions. To improve the reliability and usefulness of EIAs in biologically diverse ecosystems, we suggest three relatively fast and cost-effective complementary approaches for assessing biodiversity: remote sensing, reflectance spectroscopy, and DNA meta-barcoding. We discuss how these emerging cutting-edge techniques can help in identifying environmental threats and the consequences of different activities in Amazonia. The ability to monitor the state of the environment and the likely impacts of human activities on natural resources is fundamental to evidence-based decisions on development choices, to the design of appropriate management strategies, and to mitigate biological and ecological consequences.

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