Environmental Conservation

Main Papers

Hydroelectric Dams in the Brazilian Amazon as Sources of ‘Greenhouse’ Gases

Philip M. Fearnsidea1

a1 Research Professor, Department of Ecology, National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), Caixa Postal 478, 69011-970 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

Existing hydroelectric dams in Brazilian Amazonia emitted about 0.26 million tons of methane and 38 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1990. The methane emissions represent an essentially permanent addition to gas fluxes from the region, rather than a one-time release. The total area of reservoirs planned in the region is about 20 times the area existing in 1990, implying a potential annual methane release of about 5.2 million tons. About 40% of this estimated release is from underwater decay of forest biomass, which is the most uncertain of the components in the calculation. Methane is also released in significant quantities from open water, macrophyte beds, and above-water decay of forest biomass.