Department of Geography and the Environment

Geographers help evaluate Amazon environmental change

Wed, September 14, 2011
Geographers help evaluate Amazon environmental change

The Madeira River is the most important tributary of the Amazon in water discharge and sediment load. With water flow twice that of the Mississippi and similar to that of the Yangtze River, the Madeira is the 4rd largest river of the world and because the particular geomorphologic dynamics is one of the rivers that were classified as megarivers (Latrubesse, 2008).

The upper Madeira has created some of the world’s most spectacular and beautiful rapid sequences between Porto Velho and Guajara Mirim. Because of this hydropower potential, the Brazilian government is building two hydroelectric plants to a cost of more than $14 billion and that could generate 6,450 MW. The enterprise is one of the largest in development for the Brazilian government. The environmental damage that may occur is still unknown, although the official governmental agencies claim that it will be insignificant.

With a project funded by National Geographic Society, a team of researchers of the Department of Geography of UT-Austin, Universidade do Amazonas and UNESP-Brazil conducted field-based fluvial research in the area during forty days rescuing paleontological and archeological information, and surveying the river morphodynamics with equipment such as ADCP, echosound and geophysics instruments.

The area is rich in paleontological and archeological remains and it is considered a key area to understand the climatic changes the forest underwent during of the Last Glaciation and the human occupation of the Amazon rainforest.

 The UT team was formed by PI-Prof. Latrubesse and Co-PI Dr. Samia Aquino. The local partners were renowned Brazilian scientists such as Prof. J.C. Stevaux (UNESP) and Naziano Filizola (UFAM). Paleoecological and geoarcheological analysis are being developed in INPA, UFMT and UFMG, Brazil. The team also had the participation of several Brazilian graduate students from UNESP including M. Tizuka (advised by E. Latrubesse) and H. Fujita.

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  • Department of Geography and the Environment

    The University of Texas at Austin
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