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What futures for the Amazonian floodplains? A participatory prospective approach of a biodiversity hotspot under economic and climate change

Melo G., Coudel E., Bommel P.. 2014. In : Resilience and development: mobilising for transformation. Villeurbanne : Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe, p. 864-864. Resilience Alliance 2014, 2014-05-04/2014-05-08, Montpellier (France).

This paper presents an ongoing project funded by the FRB (Foundation for Research on Biodiversity) that aimed at understanding the changes of a biodiversity hotspot in the Amazon floodplain under climatic change. One of the objectives is to explore how global warming induce changes in human activities and conversely, how changes in human activities may have impact on the local ecosystem. The Amazonian floodplain of our study (Lago Grande of Curuai, in Santarem) is among the most productive and diversified ecosystems in the world. The moving littoral in the aquatic terrestrial transitional zone prevents from stagnation and enables a rapid organic matter and nutrients recycling, thereby explaining the large productivity of the system. Attracted by such favourable conditions for agricultural activities and fishing, populations have settled in the floodplains and have learned to cope with important variations in their environment, between the flood season and the dry season. They have adapted their livelihoods to these variations, by developing complementary activities between seasons. However, the rhythm of these floodplains seems to have changed in the past decades, obliging the actors to deal with great uncertainty. These changes occur across different spatial scales, from the whole Amazonian basin to the local lake, making it very difficult to understand locally why they are happening. This pluri-disciplinary project attempts to understand the reasons of these changes, through hydrological and biochemical models, as well as their impact on aquatic biodiversity (plankton and fish). Can the results about the dynamics of these floodplains help local populations better anticipate the future fluctuations of the river and adapt their activities to be less vulnerable to such change? Our challenge is to develop a process that will enable to confront the scientific models with the perceptions of local populations. Based on a Companion Modelling approach, which will combine the different types of knowledge, we aim to collectively discuss possible future scenarios. By adopting a perspective of social psychology, we wish to understand what motivates adaptation and how local populations can learn collectively, by building a common understanding of a situation. The first steps of our fieldwork reveal that changes in water levels have influenced the evolution of local activities, obliging breeders to bring their cattle inland earlier during the year and to open pastures in the forest. However, the main changes identified by local population are linked to the pressure of recent large-scale economic activities (such as industrial fisheries, large agricultural production, mining and hydro energy) that have direct consequences on land use and natural resources in the basin. This brings different perspectives on adaptation: although local populations can't do much against global warming but cope, they seem to confront these changes actively. However, regarding the large-scale economic activities, they seem to feel much more vulnerable to their effects. They feel more capable in adapting to climate change than to such anthropogenic pressures, revealing that motivation to adapt may not be so much linked to the inevitability as to the possibility of self-determining their future. (Texte integral)...

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