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Emerging Threats and Opportunities for Large-Scale Ecological Restoration in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil


P. H. S. Brancalion, email


Over the past 150 years, Brazil has played a pioneering role in developing environmental policies and pursuing forest conservation and ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems. In particular, the Brazilian Forest Act, first drafted in 1934, has been fundamental in reducing deforestation and engaging private land owners in forest restoration initiatives. At the time of writing (December 2010), however, a proposal for major revision of the Brazilian Forest Act is under intense debate in the National Assembly, and we are deeply concerned about the outcome. On the basis of the analysis of detailed vegetation and hydrographic maps, we estimate that the proposed changes may reduce the total amount of potential areas for restoration in the Atlantic Forest by approximately 6 million hectares. As a radically different policy model, we present the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact (AFRP), which is a group of more than 160 members that represents one of the most important and ambitious ecological restoration programs in the world. The AFRP aims to restore 15 million hectares of degraded lands in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest biome by 2050 and increase the current forest cover of the biome from 17% to at least 30%. We argue that not only should Brazilian lawmakers refrain from revising the existing Forest Law, but also greatly step up investments in the science, business, and practice of ecological restoration throughout the country, including the Atlantic Forest. The AFRP provides a template that could be adapted to other forest biomes in Brazil and to other megadiversity countries around the world.