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Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon
The Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA) is a U.S.-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is active in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. Our directors and local partners are experienced biologists and conservation professionals. Our work aims to promote the conservation of natural resources in the Amazon through sustainable agriculture, biological research and monitoring, and community engagement and education. Read more about our programs here.
Dowload a copy of Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon's Articles of Incorporation
Our mission is to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of all who live in and depend upon the Amazon rainforest. Our research, education, and conservation projects are based in Peru’s Madre de Dios Department, in the extreme southwestern corner of the vast Amazon basin that spans several other South American countries. Due to its proximity to the equator and the biodiverse tropical Andes mountains, as well as its expansive tracts of pristine tropical wilderness, the region’s rain forests are home to more species of plants and animals than nearly anywhere else on earth.
Unfortunately, this incredible biological richness is threatened by rapid, uncontrolled development and other human activities, including unsustainable agricultural practices and the extraction of natural resources. We envision a more sustainable Amazon, one in which the region’s great natural wealth sustains local human livelihoods and biodiversity without diminishing the ability of future generations to enjoy its many benefits.
About our Logo
The botanical exuberance spilling over the banks of undisturbed Amazonian rivers led the first European explorers in the region to envision a lucrative cultivated paradise—towering, buttressed trees draped in luxuriant layers of lianas, orchids, and bromeliads, as well as an impenetrably thick forest understory, hinted of the new land’s great fertility. Their intuition, however, proved spectacularly wrong, and the great infertility of tropical rainforest soils remains today a great paradox.
Whereas indigenous Amazonian peoples have farmed here for millennia using traditional, ‘slash and burn’ methods, modern, large-scale agriculture has succeeded only through massive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as continual deforestation on an unprecedented scale. Why, given the lushness of the rain forest, does it not offer high agricultural productivity? The answer is that tropical plant species are highly adapted to sequester scarce nutrients before they are quickly degraded by heat and humidity, or washed away by frequent, heavy rains.
After learning to cultivate plants for food only about 10,000 years ago, humans have cleared or severely degraded nearly half of the world’s tropical forests, altered the global climate, and imperiled the existence of thousands or even millions of other species of plants and animals. But there is a better way, and that is illustrated by the Amazon’s other leading herbivore. What herbivore is that, you might ask—the tapir, perhaps, which is the largest plant feeder currently found here? In fact, it is the tiny leaf-cutter ant!
Leaf-cutter ants live in massive, underground colonies, their workers foraging constantly, clipping small leaf fragments from the rainforest canopy and carrying them back to the nest. Inside the colony, the leaf material is chewed up and formed into a large, spongy garden, upon which is grown a fungus that serves as the ants’ sole food source. Leaf-cutter ants have been practicing agriculture—fungiculture, to be more precise—in this way for around 50 million years. And although they are capable of harvesting incredible amounts of plant material—20 percent of the rainforest’s entire productivity by some estimates—an unimaginable diversity of life coexists alongside the ants. In fact, under the reign of the leaf-cutters as the rainforest’s humble yet dominant herbivores, the Amazon has become the most biodiverse ecosystem to ever exist on our planet.
Leaf-cutter ants figure prominently in our logo because we feel they embody the spirit of our organization—that, by working together, we can meet our needs and achieve prosperity without diminishing the ability of other species to meet theirs.
A farmer shows off his crop in Pillcopata, near Peru's Manu National Perk.
A massive Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), one of the southeastern Peruvian Amazon's leading non-timber forest products. Photo: Geoff Gallice
Illegal logging and timber extraction is a leading threat to biodiversity in southeastern Peru. Photo: Geoff Gallice
A giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), one of the Amazon's charismatic wildlife species that we are working to protect. Photo: Geoff Gallice