Scientists back rethink of Brazil forest law, but with biodiversity in mind | WWF

Scientists back rethink of Brazil forest law, but with biodiversity in mind

Posted on 15 March 2011
Forest growing by the Sucunduri River. Juruena National Park, Brazil. June-July 2006.
© Zig KOCH / WWF
Two of Brazil’s most important scientific associations have taken stances in the ongoing debate about proposed alterations to Brazil’s national forest legislation, saying that while the law needs to be changed, current proposals fall short of what is needed to protect biodiversity and natural resources.

The Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) made their opinion public following a seven-month study on the issue.

One of their conclusions was that although the current forest law does indeed need to be revised, the ideal changes are far different from those proposed by federal representative Aldo Rebelo and approved by a special committee of the Brazilian House of Representatives in July 2010.

The current reform proposal approved by the Brazilian House in July states that the protection of forests is a hindrance to agribusiness, as claimed by those that supported the report behind the current legislative proposal, which downgrades protected area requirements for private land, steep land and watercourse fringes.

The reform proposal is expected to be voted on this year.

New data

The scientists late last month displayed data underpinning the vital role of forest areas under permanent protection and legal reserve areas in the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, and in making it feasible to improve Brazilian agribusiness and avoid tragedies like the landslides that have devastated many regions in summer 2010.

Professor Dr. Ricardo Rodrigues, of the University of Sao Paulo said: "The law currently in force need to be reviewed, but not along the lines of the proposals presently undergoing consideration in the parliament”.

WWF-Brazil’s CEO Denise Hamú said a technical analysis of proposed reforms to the forest law is an important step in the debate.

"We hope that the study presented by the SBPC and the ABC will set a new tone to the discussions of an issue that is of the greatest importance to Brazil. Up until now, scientific considerations have been entirely left out of the parliamentary process elaborating the reform proposal. Fortunately, there is still time to correct that serious mistake,” she said.

“The proposal should be formulated on the basis of a document that the Ministry of the Environment is preparing using rigorous criteria and incorporating the invaluable contributions of the SBPC and the ABC researchers", states WWF-Brazil’s CEO.

The entire study made by SBPC and ABC will be available within a few weeks.

A debate during the Year of the Forests

The study, and the ongoing debate around Brazil’s forest laws comes as the United Nations has designated 2011 as the International Year of the Forests

Simultaneously throughout this year, WWF will be running a Living Forests Campaign that will combine cutting edge science, new perspectives from partners and decades of on-the-ground experience to help address the challenge of saving the world's forests.

In particular this year, WWF will be asking the public, policymakers, and businesses to support the goal of Zero Net Deforestation by 2020. This isn't as simple as planting a tree for every one that's cut -- which could leave the world without any natural forests. Zero net deforestation by 2020 means replacing "like with like," so if natural forest is lost, an equal area must be restored.

The goal encourages the wise use of forests and their resources. It leaves room for some change in the land-use mosaic, as long as biodiversity is maintained and enhanced, and the net quantity, quality and carbon density of forests is maintained.

Forest growing by the Sucunduri River. Juruena National Park, Brazil. June-July 2006.
© Zig KOCH / WWF Enlarge