10 julio, 2024

Natural resources of the Peruvian jungle: forests and diversity

The natural resources of the peruvian jungle are the elements of nature of ecological, social and economic importance present in this region. The jungle is one of the natural macroregions of Peru. It is located to the west of the Sierra, on the eastern slope of the Andes. It occupies 60.32% of the Peruvian territory.

The jungle is part of the Amazon, an extensive geographic region shared between Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Peru, and Venezuela. This great ecosystem has the largest area of ​​tropical forest and the largest water network in the world.

The great heterogeneity of geographical, geological and climatic characteristics of this region has allowed the development of extensive forests that contain the greatest biological diversity on the planet. In turn, this region is rich in natural elements such as minerals, hydrocarbons and important sources of water.

forests

The largest extension of forest area in Peru is found in the jungle macro-region. These forests can be classified into two main types: high jungle forests and low jungle forests.

high jungle forests

They are located on the eastern Andean slope and north of the western slope, at an altitude of between 800 and 3,700 m asl.

These forests are characterized by the presence of mist. Its trees are medium-sized and are covered with a large number of epiphytic plants, such as orchids, bromeliads and ferns. The soils are rocky and have a large amount of humus. Its orography is marked by innumerable rivers and streams.

These forests are very important because they are home to a large number of endemic species of this region. In turn, they represent a strategic area for the protection of the headwaters of the basins.

lowland forests

They represent most of the country’s forests. They are located in the Amazon plain, below 800 m asl These forests are classified in turn into floodable forests, non-floodable humid forests, aguajales and pacales.

The floodplain forests, also known as shoals, grow on the banks of rivers, which flood during the summer season. Its trees develop large roots that allow them to remain stable and withstand the lack of oxygen caused by the saturation of the flooded soil.
The rainforests Non-floodable or mainland are the most extensive and diverse in the Peruvian Amazon. These may be terrace or hill forests. Humid terrace forests grow on flat or gently sloping areas. Moist hill forests are the most common. They occupy the mountainous terrain of variable height and slope.
The aguajales They are forests that grow on permanently flooded soils dominated by the aguaje palm (Mauritia flexuosa).
The pacales are characteristic forests of the southwestern Amazon, in which bamboos of the genus Guaduawhose vernacular name is bale.

These forests not only have great ecological value, but also constitute a notable tourist attraction. On the other hand, they are important in the process of carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release, which is why they are involved in climate regulation, water production, and nutrient cycling.

species diversity

The Peruvian jungle is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Not only does it have a large number of species of fauna and flora, but it also constitutes a relevant area of ​​endemism. In this sense, the Peruvian jungle constitutes a genetic reserve of global importance.

Fauna

The Peruvian jungle is home to the largest number of butterfly species (4,200). It has 20% of the bird species on the planet (806). In addition, 293 species of mammals (out of 513 for Peru), 180 species of reptiles (out of 375 for Peru) and 262 species of amphibians (out of 332 for Peru) have been recorded.

Fish constitute an important part of the Amazon economy and the food of its inhabitants. In the Amazon, 2,500 species of fish have been identified.

The large catfish species that inhabit the Amazon estuary and the foothills of the Andes stand out. The paiche or pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) is the largest fish in the Amazon rivers, it can measure more than 3 m and weigh more than 250 kg.

Ornamental fish are an important natural resource in the Amazon rainforest. At present, more than 150 species are registered for export, among which the otocinclos, or bearded, and the arowanas stand out. This last species is threatened by its overexploitation.

Hunting of large mammals is also a valuable source of food for local people. Large mammals such as deer, river and tortoises, tapirs, peccaries, rodents, and large primates provide the bulk of game meat.

Flora

In Peru, a third of the vascular plants known in the entire planet have been registered. In 1997, a research project reported that 800 plant species belonging to 94 families were collected in just three weeks. Several were new to science.

In the Amazon jungle there are more than 3,000 species of plants identified as useful for food (fruits, roots, nuts, among others), medicinal or for obtaining fibers, oils, waxes, latex, aromatic essences, stimulants, dyes, among others. others.

Approximately 1,600 species of plants are used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon to cure various diseases.

The Amazon is considered a center of domestication of plants, among which can be mentioned cassava (Manihot esculenta) and the pejibaye (Bactris gasipae). At present, cassava is an important crop for the self-sufficiency of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

Timber and non-timber trees

In Peru, 1.8 million m³ of roundwood are produced per year, of which more than 221,000 m³ correspond to the extraction of illegal wood, that is, more than 12% of national production.

Timber production and the pressure of timber exploitation on the forest can lead to the extinction of species of great economic value.

Among the non-timber products of the forest, the historical exploitation of rubber to obtain latex stands out. This was a fundamental industry that had its peak between the decades of 1850 and 1880. This world demand reached, with different intensities, all the Amazonian countries.

Another important non-timber product is the chestnut, or Brazil nut, Bertholletia excelsa. One of the dominant species in the canopy of terra firme forests in the Amazon, especially in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, with an estimated distribution area of ​​325 million hectares.

The market for the seeds of this tree constitutes 1 or 2% of the total volume of international trade in nuts.

It is considered one of the most viable alternatives for the sustainable use of Amazon forests, since the collection method involves minimum levels of forest disturbance.

minerals

The Peruvian jungle is a mineral-rich macroregion. In it is iron, manganese, coal, zinc, bauxite, gold, among other minerals available in smaller quantities. Its mineral reserves are estimated to constitute 16% of world reserves.

The extraction of minerals threatens the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Amazon basin. In the upper basin of the Madre de Dios River, small-scale and illegal gold mining is widely practiced, this being a major environmental problem by contaminating the water with mercury and other heavy metals, diverting the course of the rivers.

Hydrocarbons: oil and gas

The Amazon rainforest of Peru has some of the largest exploitable oil and gas deposits in the Amazon. Currently this region produces 16,500,615 barrels per year.

There are operations with hydrocarbons in some Protected Natural Areas of the Jungle, such as the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the Machiguenga Communal Reserve and the Pucacuro Reserved Zone. This situation reflects the great pressure of the oil industry on the Amazon ecosystem.

In addition, the jungle has natural gas reserves. The Camisea gas field is one of the largest energy projects in South America. There, natural gas is pumped from deposits located 4,000 meters deep, in the lower Urubamba jungle.

References

Alonzo, JA Conservation and development of the Amazon in a megadiverse context. Amazon Science (Iquitos).
Ministry of the Environment. Fifth national report on the application of the Convention on Biological Diversity, years 2010-2013. Lima Peru.

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