Extent of nontimber resource extraction in tropical forests: Accessibility to game vertebrates by hunters in the Amazon Basin

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Extractive activities targeting a wide range of nontimber forest products (NTFPs) are ubiquitous in tropical forests, yet the extent of structurally intact forests in a given region affected by this form of cryptic disturbance is poorly documented. We conducted a basin-wide geographic information system analysis of the nonmotorized accessibility of Amazonian NTFP extraction and estimated the proportion of the Amazon drainage basin within Brazil (3.74 million km2) that can be accessed on foot from the nearest navigable river or functional road. We use a long-term series of standardized line-transect vertebrate censuses conducted throughout the region to illustrate the effects of physical accessibility on wildlife densities in terms of hunting pressure as a function of distance from the nearest point of access. Population abundance in large-bodied, prime-target species preferred by game hunters tended to increase at greater distances from the access matrix, whereas small-bodied species ignored by hunters usually showed the reverse trend. In addition, we estimated the proportion of presumably inviolate core areas within nature, extractive, and indigenous reserves of Brazilian Amazonia that are prohibitively remote and unlikely to be overhunted; for instance, only 1.16% of the basin-wide area is strictly protected on paper and is reasonably safe from extractive activities targeted to game vertebrates and other valuable NTFPs. Finally, we discuss the concept of truly undisturbed wildlands in the last major tropical forest regions by distinguishing potentially overharvested areas from those that remain largely or entirely pristine and that maintain viable populations of a full complement of harvest-sensitive species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-535
Number of pages15
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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