Fundacao Vitoria Amazonica

Economic Alternatives Program

The term “blackwater ecosystem” may not mean much to most people, but for hundreds of rare and endemic species of birds, fish, plants, and mammals it is their home. The best example of a blackwater ecosystem is found in the Negro River basin, in which the Jau National Park of Brazil is located. The region is home to 60 percent of the bird species reported to exist in the Central Amazon. The Jau National Park is under federal protection from deforestation and other threats; only 3.5 percent of the total Brazilian Amazon enjoys such protection.

Hundreds of indigenous families and caboclos (riverine peoples) live within the protected area. They are struggling to find ways to make a living while maintaining the unique character and biodiversity of the region, and thus set an example for the rest of the threatened Amazon. Since it ceased to be a major rubber-producing region in the middle of the twentieth century, the local economy has diversified to include commercial fishing, ornamental fish for export, fibers for handcrafts and furniture, selective logging, and some tourism. Unfortunately, there is very little data on how much these activities are actually worth or whether they can support these communities over the long term.

 

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