Conservation Groups Launch ‘Breathtakingly Audacious’ Plan to Reforest the Amazon

A band of conservation groups have launched a massive reforesting operation to help save the Amazon and the many creatures who rely on it. 

The new project, which was announced in September at the “Rock in Rio” music festival in Brazil, sees several leading groups from different sectors come together to kickstart what will be the biggest tropical reforesting project ever.

“This is a breathtakingly audacious project,” M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International (CI), is quoted as saying. “The fate of the Amazon depends on getting this right — as do the region’s 25 million residents, its countless species and the climate of our planet.”

The Brazilian Ministry of Environment is joined by Conservation International, the World Bank, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund and Rock in Rio’s “Amazonia Live” project, all working toward one goal: The restoration of 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon by the year 2023.

This would be a significant step toward one of Brazil’s key responsibilities under the Paris Climate Agreement where it committed to restoring 12 million hectares of land by 2030.

This goal isn’t just important for the Amazon, it’s important for the world, too.

Tropical rainforests contain a number of species that are unique to the region. This year alone a further 381 species have been identified in the region, and with them comes the promise of new scientific understanding and, potentially, even breakthroughs for sectors like medicine and technology.

Rainforests also have the potential to be significant carbon sinks. Unfortunately, new research has shown that human activity like selective logging has meant that tropical rainforest regions are now emitting more CO2 than they are actually removing from the atmosphere. Restoring vast swathes of the Amazon could reverse this problem and return the rainforests to being the carbon sink they would otherwise naturally be.

The project is notable for several reasons, but one chief detail is the method of reforestation that will be used. Traditional reforestation tends to be costly and time consuming because it requires people to physically grow and plant thousands of saplings. Many of those saplings will also die due to disease and competition, leaving only minimal return for such a resource-intensive practice.

But this new project is different. The method used will be called “muvuca” where native tree seeds will be spread over previously cleared land (due to burning or animal pasture use, for example). As the Smithsonian reports, this approach has shown significant promise for a far higher yield of trees per hectare, which is why the goal has been set quite high. Of course, over a ten year period we’d expect to see some tree die off, but muvuca has an advantage because of the diversity of trees it facilitates. Time will have to tell if this plan will succeed, but it is a project that is as exciting as it is necessary.

The new project comes as part of a wider effort, known as the Amazon Sustainable Landscape Project, which aims to promote sustainable use of Amazon diversity while increasing the connectivity between protected areas and ensuring the integrity of those protections. This is important because Brazil has been criticized for, on the one hand, appearing to recognize and protect the Amazon as a significant resource for the entire world, and on the other allowing its exploitation through logging and hydroelectric dam building which requires massive swathes of forest to be cleared–something that not only impacts biodiversity but also the separate communities that live in the Amazon and have a right to remain there.

There have been signs that the embattled Brazilian government, mired as it is in corruption allegations and heavy protest, is at least taking this aspect of its responsibilities seriously.

For example, in late October Environmental Minister Jose Sarney Filho announced that the government will add to its existing incentives and penalties for land management around the Amazon by actually giving a subsidy to farmers who preserve a proportion of their land and keep it in as pristine a state as possible. This is seen as a next step in cultivating good relationships with farmers and potentially could provide better incentives than logging and land clearing. 

If Brazil can make good on this wider project it could go a long way to helping the Amazon recover from human activities that have driven it into retreat, so this is certainly something to be optimistic about and a project to keep an eye on.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

34 comments

Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Thanks.

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Cruel J
Cruel J9 days ago

YES, YES, YES!!! Haha, I scared my cats with my exuberance.

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Danuta W
Danuta W9 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Lenore K
Lenore K10 days ago

ok

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Jonathan H
Jonathan Harper11 days ago

Noted

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Lorraine Andersen

Now wouldn't that be wonderful. This planet needs every tree it can get and the the trees in the rain forest help our planet so much. Lets hope this goes.

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Sherry K
Sherry Kohn11 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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janet f
janet f11 days ago

I hope this project is wildly successful. This is a wonderful video about a barren plot of land, a man who had a vision of a forest and so, planted one by himself.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkZDSqyE1do&t=9s

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Danuta W
Danuta W11 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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