Organizers: Janette Bulkan, University of British Columbia and Katherine MacDonald, York University
The Guiana Shield, which encompasses the area of northeastern South America that lies north of the Amazon and east of the Orinoco Rivers, is a globally important forested landscape located on some of the planet's most ancient soils (Hammond 2005). In 1997, the Guiana Shield countries of Guyana and Suriname and the French overseas départment of French Guiana were listed among only eight countries globally possessing a 'great opportunity' to protect their remaining frontier forests, in spite of substantial areas of forest loss: Guyana 18 per cent, Suriname and French Guiana 8 per cent each. In addition 41 per cent of Guyana's then current frontier forest were under threat from poor stewardship of natural resources extraction (Bryant et al. 1997).
Increasing areas of the forests of Venezuela, Suriname, and Guyana are being logged and mined with little or no respect for environmental laws and regulations at both industrial and artisanal scales by Asian loggers, Canadian junior mining companies, Brazilian garimpeiros (small-scale miners) as well as thousands of local people. This poorly controlled exploitation is taking place even though the Guiana Shield forests have been extensively mapped, catalogued and studied, primarily for mineral and timber resources and hydroelectric power, but also for biological and cultural diversity and tourism potential.
Indigenous and Traditional Peoples comprise the majority populations of the forests, wetlands, savannas and mountains that dominate the Guiana Shield. Indigenous land rights are recognized to some extent in law and practice in Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela; Suriname has yet to enact such legislation.
This session invites papers on any theme pertaining to the peoples, ecosystems or socio-ecological systems of the Guiana Shield.
BRYANT, D., NIELSEN, D. and TANGLEY, L. 1997. The last frontier forests: ecosystems and economies on the edge. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.
HAMMOND, D. S. 2005. Tropical forests of the Guiana Shield: Ancient forests in a modern world. Wallingford, U.K.: CABI Publishing.