Small farmers cause substantial damage in the Amazon rainforest

Small farmers are less likely than large landowners to maintain required forest cover on their property in the Brazilian Amazon, worsening the environmental impact of their operations, reported a researcher presenting at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bonito, Brazil. Fernanda Michalski, an ecologist with the University of São Paulo and the Pro-Carnivores Institute, analyzed forest cover trends on properties of various sizes in Alta Floresta in the southern Amazon and conducted interviews with farmers on the presence of wildlife on their holdings. She found that small properties (under 440 ha) tend to have less forest cover. Riparian zones are less likely to be maintained, reducing the connectivity of what forest patches do survive, making it more difficult for wildlife to move. Smaller forest blocks were affected by edge effects, leaving them without the cool, dark, stable conditions of the forest interior that some species require. Accordingly large-bodied mammals, birds, and reptiles are scarce on smallholder properties.
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