The extent of reductions to protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon: case study of Amazon National Park
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Over the past several decades, the preservation of Brazil's natural landscapes and traditional cultures has received significant global attention; the focus of which has been primarily on the Amazon Basin. In order to safeguard the Amazon's unique biodiversity, natural resources, and traditional cultures, Brazil's state and federal governments have designated hundreds of thousands of square kilometers as conservation units with legally protected statuses. To effectively accomplish conservation objectives, it is necessary to maintain the permanence of protected areas. However, over the past decade, a host of circumstances has plagued Brazil's protected areas. Due to land use and economic pressures, the sizes of many protected areas throughout the Amazon are being reduced. Understanding the drivers and outcomes of reductions to protected areas is essential for the long-term preservation of ecosystem services. To that end, the objectives of this thesis were to understand why and how quickly a national park in the Legal Brazilian Amazon was being reduced in size by the Brazilian government. Interviews with key informants demonstrated that the park historically lacked legitimacy amongst newly arrived migrants which influenced the colonization amongst its borders. Moreover, inept governance regimes facilitated settlements within the park. Satellite imagery was used to detect and quantify the substantial rise in deforestation within the park. Spontaneous settlement in the region and a governance structure that did not enforce the park’s legality played a significant influence on the downsizing of Amazon National Park. In addition, domestic energy demands prompted the federal government to embark on a national energy strategy centered on hydropower construction that has directly impacted the park’s conservation effectiveness of maintaining natural forest cover. Together, these two drivers have united to considerably reduce both the size and the effectiveness of Amazon National Park.