Protected Areas

Considering its size and huge wetlands the Amazon River is very poorly protected. The mouth region and western floodplain areas are in general less deforested than the heavily modified floodplains of the lower Solimões within 200 km of Manaus and the eastern Amazon River below the mouth of the Rio Negro. There are no functional protected areas alongside the lower 2,000 km of the Amazon River. Neither Peru nor Colombia has any significant protected areas alongside the Amazon River. The Tikuna Indians of Brazil near the Brazilian-Colombian-Peruvian border are the only indigenous peoples with any significant claim to Amazon River floodplains.

Located at the confluence of the Amazon River (Solimões) and Caquetá-Japurá Rivers, the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve is the only functional conservation unit alongside the Amazon River. The Brazilian government established the Mamirauá Reserve in 1992, but ownership and control were ceded to the state of Amazonas. The reserve includes more than 11,000 km2, nearly all of which is considered floodplain. More than 10,000 people live on or near the reserve. It has been zoned for multiple uses and about one-third of its area has been designated as a protected zone. Fish and timber are the two most important resources extracted from the reserve. Uncontrolled logging is illegal but has proven difficult to prevent.

The Mamirauá Reserve represents a large-scale experiment based on community management of protected areas. In fact the experiment should be seen as a combination of academic and community efforts, because academics have been at least as involved as the local residents in establishing zoning regulations for the reserve. Considering the general fate of the Amazon River floodplain, the Mamirauá Reserve provides a hopeful note for conservation in the region.