BY JIM WYSS - jwyss@MiamiHerald.com
...The mysteries of this forest, which scientists like Coley are still discovering, could be at risk after this South American nation quietly began considering pulling the plug on one of the most innovative and ambitious conservation plans ever attempted.
The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was designed to leave more than 846 million barrels of crude oil untouched, in perpetuity, beneath Yasuní National Park — rioting with unknown species and tribes living in voluntary isolation.
In exchange, the government asked the world to cover just half of the crude’s $7.2 billion market price.
Environmental groups praised the plan as a novel way to slash greenhouse gases. In 2010, the United Nations threw its support behind the project, setting up a trust fund to receive and manage donations. There were hopes that crowd-sourcing conservation might be a model for other developing nations.
....In the balance is one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. The ITT block is among the most isolated areas of Yasuní National Park, a 2.4 million-acre U.N. biosphere reserve, which holds about one-third of all of the Amazon’s amphibian species, even though it represents just a small fraction of the total area. In any given two-and-a-half acre plot of the Yasuní — roughly the size of a soccer pitch — there are more species of trees than in the United States and Canada combined.
“As a biologist, nothing makes me more awestruck than to work in an incredibly diverse and pristine area where every day you discover something that you couldn’t even imagine or anticipate,” Coley said. Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/03/3541557/an-experiment-in-amazon-conservation.html