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Wildlife catastrophe at Amazon dam a warning for future Tapajós dams

28 / 12 / 2015, Mongabaycom News

[caption id="attachment_171468" align="alignleft" width="768"] Aerial photograph of the Balbina archipelago, showing some of the thousands of islands created by the dam that isolated wildlife, leading to a disastrous biodiversity crash. Photo by Caio Pamplona[/caption] [dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the Balbina Dam was completed in 1986, it flooded primary forest in the state of Amazonas along Brazil’s Uatumã River, forming a massive reservoir speckled by 3,546 flood-induced islands. In 1990, the Reserva Biológica (REBIO) do Uatumã was established, protecting the entire 443,700 hectare (109,6427 acre) reservoir, dubbed Balbina Lake, along with the adjacent mainland — the largest such reserve in the country at around 940,000 hectares (232, 2834 acres). But nearly three decades on, science has shown that these protective measures haven’t helped most species much — if at all. That discovery by researcher Maira Benchimol and her colleagues could have major repercussions for the 43 large dams planned for the Amazon’s Tapajós River Basin, and for hundreds of other proposed tropical dams throughout Latin America. Benchimol, an environmental scientist focused on ecology and conservation, did her graduate work at the University of East Anglia, and has now done groundbreaking research on the impacts of Balbina’s fragmented habitats on wildlife. She began by studying primates in 2009; animals that especially suffer after water isolation due to poor swimming skills. Then she became curious as to how other Amazonian life was faring on the forested islands of the reservoir. [caption id="attachment_171476" align="alignleft" width="768"] A few adult Howler monkeys survived on Babina reservoir islands, but didn’t exist…

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