An update to one of the most comprehensive maps of the Amazon basin shows that forest cover across the world’s largest rainforest declined by about six percent between 2000 and 2010. But the map also reveals hopeful signs that recognition of protected areas and native lands across the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon is improving, with conservation and indigenous territories now covering nearly half of its land mass.
The map was produced by RAISG, a joint effort between 11 member country organizations: the Amazon Conservation Team Suriname, DEAL-French Guiana (Guyane Française), EcoCiencia (Ecuador), Friends of Nature Foundation (Bolivia), Gaia Amazonas Foundation (Colombia), IBC (Peru), ICV – Centre of Life Institute (Brazil), Imazon (Brazil), ISA – Instituto Socioambiental (Brazil), IVIC (Venezuela), and Provita (Venezuela). The project, which is funded by the Avina Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and the Skoll Foundation, aims to integrate and coordinate efforts to establish protected areas and indigenous reservation, overcoming “the fragmented visions commonly held of the Amazon”.

RAISG found that protected areas (1.7 million sq km) and indigenous lands (1.6 million sq km) amount to 45 percent of the Amazon, with another 475,168 sq km of native territories proposed for demarcation. There are some 33.7 million people living in the Amazon, including 385 indigenous tribes and at least 71 “isolated groups” (sometimes called “uncontacted groups”).

The highest ratio of officially protected Amazon lands occurs French Guiana (72.3 percent), Ecuador (72 percent), Venezuela (71.5 percent), and Colombia (64 percent). Guyana is the laggard of the the bunch with just under 20 percent of its Amazon territory under any form of protection.

The map relies on official government data, so areas that may be protected on paper, may not be protected on the ground. Nonetheless, the map is the most comprehensive protected areas pan-Amazon map available.