An area in the Amazon, twice the Germany, is at the mercy of deforestation

1 de June de 2018 | Articles

Jun 1, 2018 | Articles

Cristina Amorim, IPAM 

An area more extensive than the entire southern region of Brazil — 70 million hectares — covered by forests is today at the mercy of land grabbers and illegal deforestation in the Amazon. Setting this area for conservation and sustainable use may be the best way to protect it and allow Brazil to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gases emissions within the global fight against climate change.

This is the defense that researchers Claudia Azevedo-Ramos, from Núcleo de Altos Estudos Amazônicos (Naea/UFPA), and Paulo Moutinho, IPAM, make in an article that will be published in the April issue of the “Land Use Policy” magazine, available online at

The article has a suggestive title — Nobody’s Land in the Amazon — and the two authors list justifications and ways to turn these public forests, both federal and state, into protected areas. Today, they are not intended for any type of use, despite their importance for climate balance.

These 70 million hectares store 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to the sum of the Brazilian emission of greenhouse gases for 4 years. This is especially important when taking into account the climatic target that Brazil has committed itself internationally – to reach, by 2025, an annual emission of 1.38 billion tons of CO2, that is, an 87% drop in relation to the rate registered in 2014, according to IPAM calculations.

“Public forests with no specific allocation in the Amazon today act as a large irrigation system and a truly giant air-conditioning, on which the region’s agricultural production depends,” says Moutinho. “Leaving this area at the mercy of deforestation could jeopardize the future agribusiness’s strength and Brazil’s ambition to make the country the ‘barn of the world’.”

Time is of the essence 

The researchers’ alert included another impressive number: 25% of the deforestation registered in the Amazon between the years 2010 and 2015 occurred within these unprotected public areas. The rate, which translates into CO2 emissions, amounts to 200 million tons, a volume equivalent to almost half of the emissions of the energy sector in Brazil in 2016, according to data from the SEEG (System of Estimates of Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases).

The authors of the study defend that governments set the 70 million hectares for conservation and sustainable uses of the natural resources to maintain the forest cover that, in turn, allows the rainfall regime to remain minimally stable.

“There is no economic justification strong enough to defend converting those areas with public forests into plantations or pasture across, given the already deforested area in the Amazon,” said Moutinho. About 10 million hectares have been cleared in the region and are underutilized. It is enough land to increase the growth of agricultural production sought by the Brazilian government.

To avoid the lengthy and bureaucratic process of creating protected areas, the two researchers propose a tiered system of allocation, with a transition phase in which vast stretches of land would be placed under the responsibility of a single government agency, appropriate to this end.

“The official statement that the government is present and takes care of these forests helps avoid illegal actions away,” explains Azevedo-Ramos. “But you can’t stop there. Subsequent detailed studies must define their correct and definitive allocation, be it social, economic or protection.”

According to the authors of the article, the idea is not to “fence” all of these areas to ward off invaders but to associate protection to sustainable activities to foster the local economy. “Stimulating a forest-based economy, for example, is essential to ensure the conservation of large stretches of forest in the Amazon,” says the researcher. “A protected area for sustainable use, for example, has the advantage of including people, fostering economic use, and being better accepted by states, municipalities, and the surrounding society. Therefore, it is more likely to be created in the short term and present local benefits.”

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