Road and highway construction in the rainforest opens up large areas to deforestation. In Brazil, the Trans-Amazonian highway resulted in the destruction of huge areas of forest by colonists, loggers, and land speculators. In Africa, logging roads give access to poachers who hunt endangered wildlife as “bushmeat” or meat sold to city dwellers. Some of the poached wildlife—especially rhinos, pangolin, and tigers—goes to Asia where it is used for traditional Chinese medicine.

Roads can also cause habitat fragmentation by breaking up tracts of forest into smaller areas. Habitat fragmentation can lead to forest die-off by altering forest conditions like humidity levels, wind, temperature, and exposure to invasive species and fire.

Rainforest road photo gallery

 

It is therefore important that when new roads are built in rainforest areas, they are carefully planned to minimize the environmental impacts. One way to reduce deforestation from road construction is to create protected areas on either side of the road.

 

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Review questions

  • How do roads affect rainforests?
  • What is habitat fragmentation?
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