Washington, D.C. (April 12, 2022) — Today, National Geographic Society announced the launch of the Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition – a series of scientific research studies spanning the entire Amazon River Basin from the Andes to the Atlantic, supported by Rolex as part of its Perpetual Planet initiative. This two-year exploration of the Amazon will leverage local National Geographic Explorers, multiple science disciplines, and photojournalism to illuminate the diversity and connectivity of the people, wildlife, and ecosystems that make up this magnificent region.
As the “Heart of the Planet,” the Amazon River Basin encompasses the single largest tropical rainforest in the world. It is home to over 40 million people and over 3 million species of plants and animals and is composed of a system of rivers that channel the largest volume of rainfall on Earth, flooding an area larger than 70% of the world’s countries. The water of the Amazon is the lifeblood of our planet though it is rarely the focus when discussing the Amazon. The land, ocean, atmosphere, people and animals are all connected by its hydrological cycle and its natural ebb and flow affects nearly every living organism near it. However, repeated and increased degradation such as deforestation, poaching, commercial agriculture, and climate change decreases the Amazon’s ability to adequately provide these critical ecosystem services for the planet.
“The Amazon is one of the most complex and essential environments in the world and it is increasingly at risk of losing its most valuable resource: water,” said National Geographic Explorer and Rolex Laureate João Campos-Silva. “It’s deeply important to respectfully explore this environment while partnering with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) so that we can have a holistic understanding of what those communities need and the steps we can all take to better protect the Amazon.”
Over the next two years, the Society in collaboration with Rolex and its Perpetual Planet initiative will support the following expeditions led by a mix of National Geographic Explorers, scientists, storytellers and local community members as they investigate the Amazon basin through the lens of multiple scientific disciplines: from ecology and biology, to hydrology, climatology, geology and geochemistry. Working across countries and ecosystems, the expeditions will showcase the diversity of the region, the intricate connectivity of the entire system, and hone in on the basin’s hydrological cycle and the critical role the river’s seasonal flooding has on access to freshwater and the survival of local communities and wildlife.
National Geographic Explorer Angelo Bernardino will explore the mangroves at the mouth of the Amazon river on the Atlantic coast to assess changes in their capacity for carbon sequestration. Angelo and National Geographic Explorer Margaret Owuor will also conduct the first ever mapping assessment of ecosystem services in this region.
National Geographic Explorers Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya and Andy Whitworth will research the impacts of deforestation and climate change on the Andean bear, whose life cycle and migratory range supports the ecosystem of the cloud forest (elevated rainforest).
National Geographic Explorers João Campos-Silva and Andressa Scabin will investigate changes in habitat and migratory conditions for aquatic wildlife throughout the Amazon River Basin and partner with local communities to design the first ever community-based basin-wide conservation model.
National Geographic Explorer Fernando Trujillo will track populations of pink river dolphins along the Amazon and assess the level of mercury contamination in their diet as a barometer for river health. He will also partner with the local community to develop fishing agreements and tree planting initiatives to prevent run-off, protecting both the riverbanks and the dolphin habitat.
National Geographic Explorers Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz and Josh West will be joined by geologist Jennifer Angel Amaya to explore two rivers in the Amazon basin to determine the impact of deforestation and mining on the rivers and water quality. This will mark the first ever evaluation of carbon and mercury production in mining ponds, and their subsequent impact on water flowpaths, ever conducted in the Amazon.
National Geographic Explorer Thiago Silva will study the resilience of Amazon forests to flooding, including measuring the carbon storage capacity and leaf morphology of aquatic tree species to provide a barometer for the capacity of the Amazon rainforest to absorb greenhouse gasses (GHGs). This study will signify the first use of remote sensing to develop 3D models of the flooded forests in the Amazon.
National Geographic Explorers Baker Perry and Tom Matthews will place a weather station near the peak of Nevado Ausangate to obtain meteorological data from one of the highest points in the Amazon watershed, and gather black carbon and snow water equivalent (SWE) samples to monitor climate change impacts on the water tower, the primary freshwater source for Andean and downstream ecosystems.
To visually capture these critical expeditions, renowned National Geographic Explorer and photographer Thomas P. Peschak will spend the better part of two years immersed in the Amazon basin with the Explorers and local community to create a first of its kind comprehensive visual documentation of the aquatic and wetland habitats of the Amazon rainforest. His storytelling will spotlight the threats and showcase the solutions, the science, and the communities working to secure the future of the Amazon.
This work builds upon the Tropical Forest Vulnerability Index created by National Geographic and Rolex in 2019. The Index indicated that each rainforest reacts differently to various stressors, such as heat, drought, fires, and pollution, and therefore each region and subregion require a diversity of solutions. The Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition would not be possible without the insights from late National Geographic Explorer at Large Tom Lovejoy whose unparalleled devotion and research of the Amazon was integral to the inception of the Tropical Forest Vulnerability Index and to this two year expedition.
“The combination of photojournalism, scientific fieldwork and partnering with local communities is critical to providing a holistic view of this wondrous environment. This will also highlight the effects of climate and environmental change, and the people that are doing something about it.” said Nicole Alexiev, Vice President of Science and Innovation at National Geographic Society. ”This Expedition underscores the importance of our longstanding partnership with Rolex, its Perpetual Planet initiative, and our joint goal of studying and exploring our planet’s life support systems and highlighting solutions to ensure their protection, restoration, and renewal.”
As a result of the Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition, National Geographic with the support of Rolex will build upon existing science and literature to establish a clearer picture of the status of the Amazon region today and provide solutions to protect its future.
To learn more about Perpetual Planet Expeditions visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/topic/perpetual-planet
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About Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Initiative
As the 21st century unfolds, Rolex has moved from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to protecting the planet and reinforced its commitment by launching the Perpetual Planet initiative in 2019. It supports individuals and organizations using science to understand the world’s environmental challenges and devise solutions that will restore balance to our ecosystems and safeguard the Earth for future generations.
The Rolex Perpetual Planet initiative for now focuses on three key areas: supporting individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise; preserving the oceans, notably through the company’s association with Mission Blue; and understanding climate and environmental change through scientific expeditions as part of its enhanced association with National Geographic, a Rolex partner since 1954.
About Perpetual Planet Expeditions
The National Geographic and Rolex partnership supports expeditions to explore the planet’s most critical environments. By harnessing world-renowned scientific expertise and cutting-edge technology that reveal new insights about the systems that are vital to life on Earth, these expeditions help scientists, decision-makers, and local communities plan for and find solutions to the impacts of climate and environmental change while illuminating the wonder of our world through impactful storytelling.