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My research involves:

Determining the effects of mining and agricultural practices on the land in the Amazon rainforest basin.

Determine quantitatively the effects of existing methods of agriculture and mining on the land in the rainforest. Also provide quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of any alternative development strategy.

Some concerns about what I am researching:

  1. There is a huge chance of overlap with other groups.
  2. For example, I'm sure the alternative development group is going to be doing some of the same research that I am doing.
  3. Possible solution to this: Help to design experiments that provide concrete evidence for their hypothesis. Their hypothesis in this case is that the alternative farming method is better.
  4. Possible coveats to this solution: This would create a bottleneck, that would lead to ineffiiciency since one group depends on another. The amount of work done would be less than if the groups were able to work in parallel.
  5. Also, perhaps it might be wiser to work with Eva to get the baseline established. By the time we have this done, we would have the tools and information we need to look at changes in land characteristics. This would help significantly in expediting my research.
  6. Possible coveats: Again this would create another bottleneck, however since this bottlenect is within the group we can reallocate resources to remain efficient.

Some info


  • 60% of deforestation is caused by shifted cultivators. These are people who are too poor to afford more suitable land for farming. In other words, the native people are not causing the problem.
  • 10% of population owns 90% of the land.
  • Poor farmers from outside areas attempt to utilize agricultural techniques that are not effective in the Amazon.

Sustainable agriculture is possible, more land was in use in the amazon during columbus's time then it is today.

Possible Solutions
  • Agroforestry is sustainable agricultural techniques developed by indiginous amazonian people.
  • Polyculture - patchworks of perenial plants, secondary growth  rainforest, pasture, etc. Instead of just clearing all land and planting one crop (monoculture)
  • Perenials may be the key. These crops produce for many years. The indiginous people use these.
  • Educate farmers about about more effective agricultural techniques so that they clear less land to reach same production level. AKA. increase the yield.
Some sustainable agricultural alternatives
  • Rubber
  • Some Medicinal Drugs are much easier to obtain from plants than from lab synthesis.
  • Foods (Brazil nut, other flavorings)
  • Food Colorants

Alternative Agricultural Method: Polycultural Composition

Poor tropical soils wear quickly lose nutrients when developed through monoculture. This leads to inefficient use of fertilezers or additional forest being cleared.

Alternative is to plant fields of polyculture. A key component of this polyculture is the use of perenials. Perennials help restore nutrients to degraded soils. Some appropriate perenials to use are:
  • citrus
  • manioc
  • vanilla
  • banana
  • mango
  • pepper
  • cacao
  • coffee
  • rubber
Additional Benefits to Polyculture

  • Increased biodiversity in that area as opposed to conventional farming methods.
  • Faster recovery when abandoned since ecological cycles are maintained.

Strip Mining

Modern mining abandons old tunnel mine method in favor of "heap-leach" strip mining.

Mining works in two phases
  1. Exploration
    1. Build extensive network of roads
    2. Use drilling rig to take 200-300 core samples of potential site
  2. Extraction
    1. Area is deforested
    2. Nitroglycerine explosives are used to break layers of rocks until a hole measuring approximately 1kilometer square and 50 meters deep is obtained.
    3. Trucks taller than jumbo jets are brought in to remove material to an onsite refining facility.
    4. The material is sprayed with cyanide to release microscopic deposits of gold.
    5. Gold is seperated from cyanide solution by electrolysis.
Approximately 50 tons of rock of rock must be removed to produce one ounce of gold.

Issues after strip mining

  1. Acid Mine Drainage (result of oxidation)
    1. Resulting waste rock is high in sulfur content and must be submerged to provent oxidation.
    2. Causes the slow release of sulfuric acid
      1. causes heavy metals to be released in to nearby streams
        1. poisons fish, game, and people


It is estimated that for every quarter pound hamburger made form rainforest cattle, 55 square feet of rainforest was cleared.

Since the soil is low in nutrients, after a few years of growing grass the soil becomes depleted of nutrients.

United States is the largest consumer of Central American Beef (Not Amazonian!)

Possible Solutions

  1. Cut down beef consumption (Highly unlikely)
  2. Stop importing rainforest cattle.
    1. Current beef labeling laws are not good enough to determine the meat's country of origin.


Finding ways to monitor the health of the rainforest is an important goal of Mission 2006. It is the land group's responsibility to determine the health of the rainforest in the perspective of the land (soil composition, etc.) The question now is what indicators should be monitored to get an accurate gauge of the health of the soil and therefore the agricultural viability of the land in that area. Many sources point to biological indicators as more effective measure of the quality of the land than chemical characteristics.

"Microbiological and biochemical parameters responded more readily to changes in land management than chemical fertility indices"(Wick et al. 2000)
In a study ((Wick et al. 2000) that analyzed the land quality changes after converting an area of natural caatinga forest (natural thorn forest) into an area suitable for cattle grazing),  it was found that in a paired comparison of the soil chemical values under the tree canopies versus outside the canopies no differences was found in total nutritent pools. However, microbial biomass C and N, were raised by 120% and 150%, respectively, under the canopies. The results found for alkaline phosphatase (120%) and B-glucosidase (140%).

A Characterization of the Amazonian Rainforest with respect to land and agriculture.


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