Kauano, É. E., Silva, J. M. C., & Michalski, F. (2017). Illegal use of natural resources in federal protected areas of the Brazilian Amazon. PeerJ, 2017(10), e3902.
Background. The Brazilian Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest regions and plays a key role in biodiversity conservation as well as climate adaptation and mitigation. The government has created a network of protected areas (PAs) to ensure long-term conservation of the region. However, despite the importance of and positive advances in the establishment of PAs, natural resource depletion in the Brazilian Amazon is pervasive. Methods. We evaluated a total of 4,243 official law enforcement records generated between 2010 and 2015 to understand the geographical distribution of the illegal use of resources in federal PAs in the Brazilian Amazon. We classified illegal activities into ten categories and used generalized additive models (GAMs) to evaluate the relationship between illegal use of natural resources inside PAs with management type, age of PAs, population density, and accessibility. Results. We found 27 types of illegal use of natural resources that were grouped into 10 categories of illegal activities. Most infractions were related to suppression and degradation of vegetation (37.40%), followed by illegal fishing (27.30%) and hunting activities (18.20%). The explanatory power of the GAMs was low for all categories of illegal activity, with a maximum explained variation of 41.2% for illegal activities as a whole, and a minimum of 14.6% for hunting activities. Discussion. These findings demonstrate that even though PAs are fundamental for nature conservation in the Brazilian Amazon, the pressures and threats posed by human activities include a broad range of illegal uses of natural resources. Population density up to 50 km from a PA is a key variable, influencing illegal activities. These threats endanger long-term conservation and many efforts are still needed to maintain PAs that are large enough and sufficiently intact to maintain ecosystem functions and protect biodiversity.