How Brazil is slowing down deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

Brazil is slowing down deforestation of the striking Amazon rainforest which covers more than half of Brazil.  For four consecutive years, deforestation rates lowered consistently.  And this, is no small feat.

Rainforest loss of 1,798 square miles was recorded in 2011-2012.  However, a recent announcement by the Brazilian Minster of Environmental Affairs brought good news that deforestation decreased by 27% in the last year.  The country’s National Institute for Space Researched also confirmed a slower rate of deforestation.  The Institute started recording rainforest deforestation in 1988, and proudly announced that 2012’s deforestation recording is the lowest since the Institute started its recordings.  But how did Brazil manage to slow down deforestation of the rainforest which is under immense human and development pressure? And could the same measures be implemented to combat deforestation elsewhere on the globe?

Amazonia statistics

Field Trip - View from the Canopy WalkwayRecords show that since 1970, over 230,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest were destroyed.  Deforestation in Brazil’s recent past was the highest in the world.  And the environmental impacts are huge: the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is one of the world’s greatest natural resources and environmental assets.  Up to 20% of the earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest – earning its title as “Lungs of the Planet”.  The biodiversity is incredibly high.  Scientists reckon that the canopy of the rainforest alone, is home to at least half of the world’s species.  In terms of economic benefits, the Amazon rainforest itself is not only a rich economical resource for the local region, but the soils and favourable climatic factors make the Amazon basin a valuable and productive agricultural region.  And for these reasons, the Amazon rainforest is critically vulnerable to extreme exploitation – exactly what has happened during the past century.  Preservation of the Amazon rainforest has been high on conservation agendas worldwide, but for many decades the need for economic growth and income generation, even if through illegal means, prevailed, causing continued loss of forest to transformation.

Turning deforestation around

Moving from severe forest transformation to the slowing down of deforestation, Brazil is set to slow down the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest even further.  A number of strategies in Brazil’s rainforest management process can be highlighted:

  • Forest Code: Following decades of debate on how the country should balance agricultural development and production with conservation of the rainforest, Brazil’s government passed the controversial Forest Code during April 2012.  Although the law provides somewhat limited protection to the forest, some controversial parts of the bill was vetoed – and is surely contributing to avoiding deforestation.
  • Focus on illegal forest clearing:  advanced information systems now guards portions of the forest – helping the government, federal police and Brazilian Intelligence Agency act on illegal forest clearing.  An even higher tech information system, exposing illegal deforestation taking place in small and hidden corners of the rainforest, will be launched early 2013.
  • Reducing carbon emissions:  Brazil is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as other legally binding agreements to carbon emission reductions.  Preventing the deforestation of the rainforest is a critical means for Brazil to achieve their carbon emission reduction targets.
  • Monitoring and enforcement: satellite monitoring plays a main part in Brazil’s fight against deforestation.  This is supported by a strong team of enforcement on the ground.
  • Integrated government policies: In 2004, Brazil launched the  Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation of the Amazon (PPCD-Am).  This integrated plan involves 13 government agencies, and actively work together with grassroot organizations to combat deforestation.

The future

Through means of both national and international legislation, technology, active enforcement, and involvement of the local community, Brazil has shown the world how deforestation can be slowed down, albeit slowly.  Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is deadly – and it remains a deadly impact of great concern for the future.  Likewise, deforestation across the globe is a long-term to permanent impact of national and global extent.  Other countries can indeed learn from Brazil – their deforestation combatting strategies can be tailored to specific needs and will bring about positive change if actively implemented.  However, as with many other global environmental concerns, enduring the pressure from human populations and establishing long-term forest preservation will need more than just management: solutions are needed.  Rainforest countries must find new means of development and growth – relying solely on the Amazon rainforest for economic growth and community development will mean that preservation of the rainforest will be overpowered.  Brazil is making excellent progress with rainforest preservation – now to apply innovation for lasting protection.

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Photo credits: some rights reserved by Dingilingi and Multivac42 via flickr

Sources: The Amazon Rainforest; Environment News Service; and PPCD-Am

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