Conservation efforts, including the planning and mitigation of investment projects, must be compatible with the vast dimensions of the Amazon basin. In the case of the Amazon, cumulative impacts can be felt thousands of kilometers downstream, from the Andes to the Atlantic, and from near Brasilia, in the heart of Brazil, to Belém, at the estuary of the Amazon River.

Adressing a Scale Challenge

The Amazon Waters Alliance proposes an “upstream-downstream” spatial framework of Integrated Basin Management (IBM), which can conceptually be used on an appropriate scale to achieve conservation actions, investment project planning, and environmental mitigation.

Hydrographic basins are natural geographical units in the Amazon, and for a long time, the local population’s perception of “space” has been framed in both these basins and political units. The Amazon Waters Alliance has developed a new classification of hydrographic basins that complements the one currently managed by national water agencies and various authorities.

This classification can be used to map ecological phenomena such as fisheries, fish migrations, and water types along a basin, and it has the particularity of using different scales, ranging from very small basins drained by tiny streams to large sub-basins like Ucayali, Negro, and Madeira, and ultimately encompassing the entire Amazon basin.

This classification of basin units can also be used to quantitatively define areas that should be considered in the planning of activities related to fisheries and wetland management; in investment projects such as transportation routes, energy infrastructure, extractive industries, and agriculture; in the development of environmental impact assessments; and in the definition of mitigation strategies based on a realistic scale of impacts.

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