From: William Laurance, NewScientist
Published September 3, 2009 08:50 AM

Roads are ruining the rainforests

"THE best thing you could do for the Amazon is to bomb all the roads." That might sound like an eco-terrorist's threat, but they're actually the words of Eneas Salati, one of Brazil's most respected scientists. Thomas Lovejoy, a leading American biologist, is equally emphatic: "Roads are the seeds of tropical forest destruction."

They are quite right. Roads are rainforest killers. Without rampant road expansion, tropical forests around the world would not be vanishing at a rate of 50 football fields a minute, an assault that imperils myriad species and spews billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. We will never devise effective strategies to slow rainforest destruction unless we confront this reality.

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In our increasingly globalized world, roads are running riot. Brazil has just punched a 1200-kilometre highway (the BR-163) into the heart of the Amazon and is in the process of building another 900-kilometre road (the BR-319) through largely pristine forest. Three new highways are slicing across the Andes, from the Amazon to the Pacific. Road networks in Sumatra are opening up some of the island's last forests to loggers and hunters. A study published in Science found that 52,000 kilometres of logging roads had appeared in the Congo basin between 1976 and 2003.

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