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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography

Maracá Rainforest Project 1987-1988

An ecological survey of the riverine island of Maracá, an important tropical forest reserve in Brazilian Amazonia, and four related programmes: forest regeneration; soils and hydrology; medical entomology; land development.

At the invitation of the Brazilian Environment Secretariat (SEMA) and in collaboration with the National Amazon Research Institute (INPA), the RGS mounted the largest British project ever to work in Brazilian Amazonia. It was a welcome invitation, since, although Brazil contains almost 60 per cent of the world's surviving rainforests, it is difficult for foreign scientists to obtain permission to work there.

SEMA requested an ecological survey of the flora, fauna and physical geography of its Maracá Ecological Reserve. Maracá is a vast 100,000-hectare uninhabited island, 60 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, on the Uraricoera River, a tributary of the Amazon. Its forests, wetlands, patches of savanna, and small hills are largely unexplored. SEMA has a purpose-built research station on the eastern tip which served as a comfortable base for the project.

It was a fundamental objective of this Project to involve as many Brazilian scientists as possible (over 130 participated) and to present the results in Portuguese at a major review conference in Manaus in April 1989 and in Brazilian journals. This policy increased the chances of the Project's findings being applied to save Amazon forests.

Much research was carried out in the interior of Maracá Island, this involved numerous tough river trips up formidable rapids, mapping the myriad channels and waterfalls, cutting many new trails through the dense vegetation and often steep terrain, and establishing sub-camps.

Data from this programme will go to Brazilian government agencies concerned with colonisation in order to help the settlers and minimise the environmental damage they cause by lessening their rate of failure.

· RGS Maraca project bibliography PDF

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