Conservation in Brazil
Due to the intense economic growth, the environment has long been under strain in Brazil. Environmental protection continues to be an issue in Brazil. Indians and Brazilian environmental activists on one side are fighting a battle with ranchers, illegal loggers, lumberjacks, gold and oil prospectors and drug traffickers. This is especially true in some regions such as Pará.
Some prominents activists such as Wilson Pinheiro and Chico Mendes were murdered in disputes with other local ranchers in 1980 and 1988 respectively. As recent as 2005, Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old American nun, was murdered in a dispute with a local rancher. Stang wanted to preserve a swath of the rainforest, where the rancher wanted to raise cattle. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva was killed by illegal loggers in 2011.
In order to protect biological and socio-cultural diversity, Brazil has established an extensive network of protected areas which covers more than 2 million km2 (25% of Brazil's national territory) and is divided almost equally between protected natural areas or conservation units and indigenous land (Terras Indígenas). For surveillance, the Força Aérea Brasileira has been using aircraft, as part of the Sistema de Vigilância da Amazônia (SIVAM) program, to monitor the illegal logging or burning of the Amazon.
From 2002 to 2006, the protected land in the Amazon Rainforest has almost tripled, and deforestation rates have dropped up to 60%. About 1,000,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi), have been put onto some type of conservation, which adds up to a current amount of 1,730,000 square kilometres (670,000 sq mi).
More than one-fifth of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil has been completely destroyed, and more than 70 mammals are endangered.). The threat of extinction comes from several sources, including deforestation and poaching. Extinction is even more problematic in the Atlantic Forest, where nearly 93% of the forest has been cleared. Of the 202 endangered animals in Brazil, 171 are in the Atlantic Forest.
Brazil's environment is under threat because of the rapid economic and demographic rise. Extensive legal and illegal logging destroys forests the size of a small country per year, and with it a diverse series of species through habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 sq mi) of the Amazon Rainforest have been cleared by logging. Between 2002 and 2006, an area of the Amazon the size of South Carolina was deforested for the purposes of raising cattle, growing soybeans and cutting timber. By 2020, it is estimated that at least 50% of the species resident in Brazil will become extinct.
The failure of FUNAI to effectively enforce the protection of Indian reserves has also contributed to deforestation. Therefore the military has been ordered to shoot or capture anti-conservation looters on sight.
According to a 2001 report by Rede Nacional de Combate ao Tráfico de Animais Silvestres, or RENCTAS, (Portuguese for "National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals"), wildlife smuggling is Brazil's third most profitable illegal activity, after arms dealing and drug smuggling. RENCTAS believes that the poachers are taking an estimated 38 million birds, reptiles and other animals from the wild each year.
Native wildlife are threatened by some invasive species. There have been more than 300 documented invasive species in Brazil. It is estimated that invasive species cost Brazil around $49 billion. The most threatening species is the wild boar which destroys crops and natural flora, and can transmit diseases to indigenous animals. Also damaging the natural habitat are African grasses and snails. The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) has put restrictions on what species may be brought into the country.
Decline of endangered species
Economic benefits of environmental conservation
Environmentalists have stated there is not only a biological incentive to protecting the rainforest, but an economic one as well. One hectare of the Amazon Rainforest has been calculated to have a value of $6820 if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber; $1000 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested); or $148 if used as cattle pasture.
National System of Conservation Units - SNUC
Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 ensures in its article on the environment (art. 225), an “ecologically balanced environment” and imposes the Government the obligation of defending it and preserving it. From this constitutional base, the country has created the National System of Units of Conservation (Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação - SNUC), through the Federal Law No. 9.985/2000.
Basically, the SNUC divises protected areas into two groups: Full protection and sustainable use. Each group contains divers categories of units.
- Full protection - Ecological station, Biological Reserve, National Park, Natural Monument, and Wildlife refuge
- Sustainable use - Environmental Protection Area, Area of Relevant Ecological Interest, National Forest, Extractive reserve, Fauna Reserve, Sustainable Development Reserve, and Private Reserve of Natural Heritage.
- Battle between environmental activists and entrepreneurs in Brazil
- Wallace, Scott. National Geographic Magazine. January 2007.
- José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva killed by illegal loggers
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- Although this study was developed specifically for the Peruvian Amazon, the Brazilian Amazon holds the same value. Peters, C.M., Gentry, A.H. & Mendelsohn, R.O. (1989) "Valuation of an Amazonian Forest." Nature 339: 655-656.
- , Federal Law Nº 9.985 of 07/18/2000. Regulates article 225 of the Federal Constitution and institutes the National System of Units of Conservation and other provisions.
- Socio-environmental Institute, What is the SNUC??.