For the first time ever, scientists have been able to estimate the current state of restoration of native forests in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. A study published in Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation reveals that about 740,000 hectares of forests in the biome were successfully restored between 2011 and 2015.
Featuring contributions from more than 20 authors from 10 different institutions, the study was produced by the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact, a movement of companies, government agencies, civil society organizations and research centers formed in 2009 to restore 15 million hectares of degraded areas in the biome by 2050.
In 2011, the Pact committed to the Bonn Challenge with the goal of restoring 1 million hectares of forests in the Atlantic Forest by 2020, and the results of the study show that this goal is achievable. “The numbers bring hope that ambitious restoration goals can be met, bringing benefits to the population and helping Brazil meet its international commitments,” said Renato Crouzeilles, study leader and researcher at the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS). Brazil has committed to recovering 12 million hectares of native vegetation by 2030 through its National Plan for the Recovery of Native Vegetation and the Bonn Challenge.
Forest and landscape restoration are crucial to recovering degraded areas of the country, protecting biodiversity, springs, rivers and soil, and promoting ecosystem services. In addition, restoration can help drive a native forest economy based on non-timber products, planting native trees for wood, collecting fruits, nuts, and seeds, and extracting active ingredients for drugs and essences.
“The study demonstrates the importance of multisectoral initiatives to gain scale and open up socioeconomic opportunities in the forest restoration chain,” says Severino Ribeiro, coordinator of the Pact during the development of the study.
Ludmila Pugliese, current coordinator of the Pact, stresses: “Society’s engagement in expanding the scale of restoration is vital, since this activity must be seen as a means of transforming society. We are communicating a positive response from all of society to one of the greatest challenges of the century.”
Using satellite mapping from the MapBiomas project, the work estimates that 673,000 to 740,000 hectares of native forests in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest were recovered between 2011 and 2015. If this trend continues until 2020, the Pact will exceed its restoration commitment, reaching about 1.4 million hectares of native forests.
The study estimates that about 300,000 hectares of forests were recovered by active restoration interventions by one of the 350 members of the Pact. The rest may have been restored by other actors or be the result of natural regeneration, although the individual contribution of each restoration technique cannot be determined.
According to the authors, three main factors were responsible for the successful recovery of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: the development of a governance and communication strategy in 14 of the 17 states covered by the forest; the establishment of a restoration monitoring system; and the promotion of a vision and strategy to influence public policy and restoration in different spheres.
POLICIES UNDER THREAT
Despite its rapid recovery, the Atlantic Forest remains at risk due to changes in environmental policies, including collective governance structures without broad debate and proposed changes to weaken the New Forest Code. Brazil’s socio-environmental policies have set an international standard for decades, giving additional value to Brazilian agriculture and incorporating discussions about climate change, payments for environmental services, efforts to combat deforestation, and forest restoration initiatives. Brazil has been a world leader in harmonizing productive areas and protecting and restoring forests and natural vegetation, and these efforts need to be continued and deepened.
About the Pact
The Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact is a movement of integrated, multi-stakeholder Brazilian civil society institutions supporting and participating in forest restoration efforts. Its aim is to encourage public and private institutions, governments, companies and landowners to combine efforts and resources to restore and conserve biodiversity. The goal of the Pact is to restore 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by 2050.