Philip Fearnside

Philip M. Fearnside is a Research Professor in the Department of Ecology at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA) in Manaus. He is a permanent resident in Amazonia, where he has lived for over 30 years doing ecological research.

Recent Articles

The Fractured Landscape

A road here and a cattle ranch there imperil more than the immediate vicinity.

The landscape in Amazonia is rapidly becoming fractured, weakening the rainforest's capacity to withstand the escalation of ever-stronger assaults, ranging from chainsaws to climate change. The forest is not only being crisscrossed by highways, pipelines, and other kinds of infrastructure. It is also riddled with clandestine logging roads and the scars of forest fires. DIRECT DESTRUCTION The dominant form of rainforest destruction is still deforestation, the deliberate cutting of trees with chainsaws, followed by burning to prepare the land for planting. Cattle pasture is the principal land use replacing forest, and large- and medium-sized ranches account for around 70 percent of the clearing. The portion that is cleared by small farmers is often planted for a year or two in annual crops such as manioc or rice, but after this initial use the land winds up converted to cattle pasture just the same. In some parts of the Brazilian Amazon, highly capitalized soybean plantations are making...