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Large expansion of oil industry in the Ecuadorian Amazon: biodiversity vulnerability and conservation alternatives

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Ecuador will experience a significant expansion of the oil industry in its Amazonian region, one of the most biodiverse areas of the world. In view of the changes that are about to come, we explore the conflicts between oil extraction interests and biodiversity protection and apply systematic conservation planning to identify priority areas that should be protected in different oil exploitation scenarios. First, we quantified the current extent of oil blocks and protected zones and their overlap with two biodiversity indicators: 25 ecosystems and 745 species (whose distributions were estimated via species distribution models). With the new scheme of oil exploitation, oil blocks cover 68% (68,196 km2) of the Ecuadorian Amazon; half of it occupied by new blocks open for bids in the southern Amazon. This region is especially vulnerable to biodiversity losses, because peaks of species diversity, 19 ecosystems, and a third of its protected zones coincide spatially with oil blocks. Under these circumstances, we used Marxan software to identify priority areas for conservation outside oil blocks, but their coverage was insufficient to completely represent biodiversity. Instead, priority areas that include southern oil blocks provide a higher representation of biodiversity indicators. Therefore, preserving the southern Amazon becomes essential to improve the protection of Amazonian biodiversity in Ecuador, and avoiding oil exploitation in these areas (33% of the extent of southern oil blocks) should be considered a conservation alternative. Also, it is highly recommended to improve current oil exploitation technology to reduce environmental impacts in the region, especially within five oil blocks that we identified as most valuable for the conservation of biodiversity. The application of these and other recommendations depends heavily on the Ecuadorian government, which needs to find a better balance between the use of the Amazon resources and biodiversity conservation.

No MeSH data available.


Species richness patterns and richness center of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Species richness map (A) is obtained from the sum of the species distribution models of amphibians, birds, heliconiine butterflies, medium and large terrestrial mammals, and vascular plants. The richness center map of the five key focus groups (B) is observed in the northern Amazon, overlapping with oil blocks.
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ece32099-fig-0002: Species richness patterns and richness center of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Species richness map (A) is obtained from the sum of the species distribution models of amphibians, birds, heliconiine butterflies, medium and large terrestrial mammals, and vascular plants. The richness center map of the five key focus groups (B) is observed in the northern Amazon, overlapping with oil blocks.

Mentions: Regarding biodiversity, the highest species richness areas for amphibians, birds, mammals, heliconiine butterflies, and vascular plants are mainly located in the northern Amazon (Fig. 2A); unfortunately, this is the area where operative oil blocks are concentrated. Moreover, the species richness center of the region, where the highest diversity for all species groups overlap (Fig. 2B), extends 4351 km2 and coincides almost completely (99.8%) with oil blocks or areas compromised by deforestation. In addition, the species richness center overlaps with an extremely small percentage of protected zones (0.2%).


Large expansion of oil industry in the Ecuadorian Amazon: biodiversity vulnerability and conservation alternatives
Species richness patterns and richness center of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Species richness map (A) is obtained from the sum of the species distribution models of amphibians, birds, heliconiine butterflies, medium and large terrestrial mammals, and vascular plants. The richness center map of the five key focus groups (B) is observed in the northern Amazon, overlapping with oil blocks.
© Copyright Policy - creativeCommonsBy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4979723&req=5

ece32099-fig-0002: Species richness patterns and richness center of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Species richness map (A) is obtained from the sum of the species distribution models of amphibians, birds, heliconiine butterflies, medium and large terrestrial mammals, and vascular plants. The richness center map of the five key focus groups (B) is observed in the northern Amazon, overlapping with oil blocks.
Mentions: Regarding biodiversity, the highest species richness areas for amphibians, birds, mammals, heliconiine butterflies, and vascular plants are mainly located in the northern Amazon (Fig. 2A); unfortunately, this is the area where operative oil blocks are concentrated. Moreover, the species richness center of the region, where the highest diversity for all species groups overlap (Fig. 2B), extends 4351 km2 and coincides almost completely (99.8%) with oil blocks or areas compromised by deforestation. In addition, the species richness center overlaps with an extremely small percentage of protected zones (0.2%).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Ecuador will experience a significant expansion of the oil industry in its Amazonian region, one of the most biodiverse areas of the world. In view of the changes that are about to come, we explore the conflicts between oil extraction interests and biodiversity protection and apply systematic conservation planning to identify priority areas that should be protected in different oil exploitation scenarios. First, we quantified the current extent of oil blocks and protected zones and their overlap with two biodiversity indicators: 25 ecosystems and 745 species (whose distributions were estimated via species distribution models). With the new scheme of oil exploitation, oil blocks cover 68% (68,196 km2) of the Ecuadorian Amazon; half of it occupied by new blocks open for bids in the southern Amazon. This region is especially vulnerable to biodiversity losses, because peaks of species diversity, 19 ecosystems, and a third of its protected zones coincide spatially with oil blocks. Under these circumstances, we used Marxan software to identify priority areas for conservation outside oil blocks, but their coverage was insufficient to completely represent biodiversity. Instead, priority areas that include southern oil blocks provide a higher representation of biodiversity indicators. Therefore, preserving the southern Amazon becomes essential to improve the protection of Amazonian biodiversity in Ecuador, and avoiding oil exploitation in these areas (33% of the extent of southern oil blocks) should be considered a conservation alternative. Also, it is highly recommended to improve current oil exploitation technology to reduce environmental impacts in the region, especially within five oil blocks that we identified as most valuable for the conservation of biodiversity. The application of these and other recommendations depends heavily on the Ecuadorian government, which needs to find a better balance between the use of the Amazon resources and biodiversity conservation.

No MeSH data available.