Department of Geography and the Environment

New Faculty Member: Dr. Eugenio Arima

Fri, August 19, 2011
New Faculty Member:   Dr. Eugenio Arima
Dr. Arima (left) greeting a local resident in the Amazon

Dr.Eugenio Arima is a new assistant professor, specializing in GIScience by using social science approaches.

This summer he examined possible future changes in the Amazon, before coming to Austin.

Regional climate change models predict that if Amazonian deforestation continues to expand, the climate regime may reach a tipping point, shifting it to a new, drier state. As a result, large portions of the evergreen tropical forest might become permanent savannah.

Joined by colleagues from Michigan State University, Bob Walker and Ritaumaria Pereira, Dr. Arima went to explore the heart of the Amazon, a region that is cut by the western portion of the famous Transamazon Highway. Unlike the so–called Arc of Deforestation (southern and eastern edges), this region is still mostly forested and relatively unoccupied by settlers. Thus, this region might become the new stage for the ‘battle of the tipping point.’

Their expedition’s objective was to find out if there were imminent human pressures at a scale grand enough to tip the balance on the other direction. The findings were mixed. They were surprised to drive hundreds of kilometers along roads through national parks and indigenous reserves with wall-to-wall forests on both sides. Despite lack of funds, those ‘paper parks’ actually work and protect against economic encroachment. On the other hand, they noticed that the logging industry is expanding in this region, attracted by the lack of governmental oversight. They also collected evidences of several companies investing in mineral prospection and assessment of the hydroelectric potential of the western tributaries of the Amazon River, which might indicate that the future is still up for grabs.

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  • Department of Geography and the Environment

    The University of Texas at Austin
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