A rainforest with a gold chain?:
The impacts of gold mining on the trophic web of an Amazonian rainforest of SE Peru
Have you ever thought about how the extraction of gold could have implications in the energy flow of an Amazonian rainforest ecosystem?
Do you know how you could be part of this chain even if you are not in the rainforest?
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Gold mining is one of the most pervasive activities in the Amazonian rainforest of southeast Peru, especially along the Madre de Dios river. Rainforests of this region are considered among the most biodiverse and complex ecosystems in the world, holding records for the numbers of species of birds, mammals, insects, and species of woody and herbaceous plants, and providing many ecosystem services, at the local, regional and global level. This region is also known for its rich indigenous culture.
Gold mining extraction in the Peruvian Amazon has been happening for decades. The activity, which in great part is informal and illegal, has detrimental impacts on rainforest habitat & biodiversity. Most importantly, gold mining in this region has largely relied on the use of mercury (Hg) as a vehicle to capture gold particles that are within river sediments. Because of this chemical process, mercury has entered the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems’ trophic chain. In this module, we will review the concepts of bioaccumulation and biomagnification and the impacts that they can have in ecosystems. Students will learn in more detail some of the ways in which mercury bioaccumulates in some species of the Amazonian rainforest of southeastern Peru because of artisanal gold mining in the region. Learning about the environmental impacts of gold mining in this region will also give us the opportunity to connect this issue to the health, economy, and social systems of the human population of this region.