Amazon reforestation begins

The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is decreasing and, in some areas, ranchers are even being forced to replant areas cleared for farming.

According to conservation organisation WWF, the rate at which the rainforests are being destroyed is slowing though, it claims, this is largely due to economic factors rather than environmental concerns about the loss of biodiversity of the vast carbon sink that makes up the Amazon Basin.

A dip in the global market for soy, the foundation of Brazilian agriculture, is a major factor says the pressure group.

Nevertheless, the slowing of the forest clearance is to be welcomed.

“The decline is encouraging, but we are not out of the woods yet,” said WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Denise Hamú.

“More concerted action is required to integrate the government’s environmental and development policies in order to really crack down on illegal activities that are having an adverse effect on the forest. Encouraging policies that foster a sustainable forestry-based regional economy should be pursued.”

WWF believes that, carried out in the right way, sustainable forestry activities can generate income while ensuring a plentiful supply of timber in the long term, and helping to conserve existing wildlife and plant species.

In some areas, the trend has even been reversed with government enforcing laws which require landowners to keep at least 80% of their land forested.

Previous laws had set this figure at 50% and, in the Acre region at least, government is forcing those who do not meet these targets to plant native sapling such as mahogany grown in state nurseries.

Meanwhile, the Amazon Regional Protected Areas (ARPA) initiative, administered by an alliance of NGOs, development banks and the Brazilian Government, has secured some 20 million hectares of forest land which will now be protected.

“Through ARPA we are creating parks and reserves in areas that risk being rapidly deforested,” explained Cláudio Maretti, head of WWF-Brazil’s protected areas programme, which supports the ARPA initiative.

“We are not only ensuring biodiversity conservation in perpetuity in these areas, but we are also bringing order to the land tenure chaos that leads to uncontrolled deforestation.”

“Improved land tenure in the agricultural sector has been a key element in the reduction of deforestation rates. The setting aside of indigenous reserves and protected areas under ARPA are two fundamental tools enabling the government to assert its ownership over public lands in the Brazilian Amazon against land grabbers and speculators.”

Sam Bond

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