Towards environmentally sustainable agriculture in Brazil: challenges and opportunities for applied ecological research

Authors

  • Joice Ferreira,

    Corresponding author
    1. Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation, EMBRAPA Amazônia Oriental, Trav. Dr. Enéas Pinheiro s/n, Caixa Postal 48, CEP 66017-970, Belém, PA, Brazil
      Correspondence author. Department of Zoology, Conservation Science Group, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, CB2 3EJ, Cambridge, UK. E-mail: joice@cpatu.embrapa.br
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  • Renata Pardini,

    1. Department of Zoology, Institute of Biosciences, University of Sao Paulo, Rua do Matão, travessa 14, 101, CEP 05508-900, São Paulo, SP, Brazil
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  • Jean Paul Metzger,

    1. Department of Ecology, Institute of Bioscience, University of Sao Paulo, CEP 05508-900, São Paulo, SP, Brazil
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  • Carlos Roberto Fonseca,

    1. Department of Botany, Ecology and Zoology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Lagoa Nova, 59092-350 Natal, RN, Brazil
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  • Paulo S. Pompeu,

    1. Department of Biology, Federal University of Lavras, Lavras, Minas Gerais, Brazil
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  • Gerd Sparovek,

    1. Department of Soil Science, Luiz de Queiroz, College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo, Av de Pádua Dias 11, CEP 13418-900, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil
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  • Julio Louzada

    1. Department of Biology, Federal University of Lavras, Lavras, Minas Gerais, Brazil
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Correspondence author. Department of Zoology, Conservation Science Group, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, CB2 3EJ, Cambridge, UK. E-mail: joice@cpatu.embrapa.br

Summary

1. Brazil is one of the world’s major producers of food and biofuels. Agricultural expansion has driven rapid economic development but has also had major impacts on biodiversity and the conservation of ecosystem services in the country.

2. Here, we analyse recent advances in applied ecological research on the consequences of agricultural expansion for biodiversity in Brazil, identify knowledge gaps, and discuss how ecological science can help guide the development of more sustainable agricultural systems.

3. The majority of native vegetation in Brazilian biomes is found within private lands, emphasizing the importance of recent reforms to the Brazilian Forest Act legislation. Using the example of the Forest Act, we critically assess the extent to which ecological research has provided guidance for policy decisions to date. We identify important knowledge gaps regarding the ecological impacts of agricultural expansion in Brazil and the general disconnection between ecological science and environmental policy processes.

4.Synthesis and applications. Increased efforts are needed from both researchers and policy makers to engage from the earliest stage possible in the identification, assessment and communication of environmental issues and possible management solutions. Narrowing the gap between research and policy is essential if the academic community is to capitalize effectively on recent governmental investments in research and provide the necessary evidence basis for reconciling agricultural production and environmental conservation in Brazil.

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