Trees Return to the Amazon

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Trees Return to the Amazon

South America map

Reseeding Millions of Acres in the Most Deforested Area in the World

Decades of abuse and misuse have resulted in the loss of millions of acres of Amazon forests, as well as the destruction of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystem. And because everything is connected, this abuse of the largest rainforest in the world decimated the economy of local populations and spiked Brazil’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Now there is good news as billions of seeds are being planted in Brazil’s Amazon forest.

A massive project is underway to re-seed roughly 70,000 acres of forest land with 73 million new trees. The project is taking place in what is known as the “arc of deforestation.” Dr. M. Sanjayan, Conservation International’s CEO said, “This is a breathtakingly audacious project.” He said this the most ambitious forest reforestation project ever undertaken in the world. If they can get it right here, he says, the Amazon’s 25 million residents and the entire world will reap immeasurable benefits. The project will also go a long way toward helping Brazil meet its 2030 Paris Agreement obligations.

The Arc of Deforestation

Brazil is home to the world’s largest rainforest. Hosts of native populations, many of whom have never deviated from thousands of years of tradition survive on Brazil’s richly biodiverse environment. Tragically, conflicting values and priorities resulted in one of the largest deforestation undertakings in the world.
Almost half of the entire world’s tropical deforestation has taken place in what is known as the “arc of deforestation.” Brazil’s forests were cleared to make way for agricultural lands, the result of competing interests of becoming a global giant in the production of coffee, beef, sugar, and poultry. The lack of strategic planning meant that not only were the rainforests destroyed, but farming also suffered. Deforestation resulted in the entire ecosystem going out of balance, which impacted soil health, resulting actually in lower yields of agricultural produce. Further, Brazil became the 4th largest contributor to climate change.

Seeding Back to the Future

The project is employing a new technique known as muvuca, which was developed a few years ago in Brazil. Muvuca means many people in a very small place in Portuguese. Workers will plant 200 native species of seeds over every inch of the deforested lands. Saplings are much more labor-intensive, and they may or may not adapt to the environment. While not all seeds will survive, those that do turn into healthy, robust trees that have become completely acclimated to the soil and environment. The success rate is much higher. The primary focus area of this massive undertaking is in the southern Amazonas, Acre, Para, Rondonia, and continuing through the Xingu watershed. To date, one million seeds have been planted.

More good news is that if the project succeeds in Brazil, it can be replicated elsewhere. Conservation International and its partners, the Global Environment Facility, Brazilian Ministry of Environment, Brazilian Biodiversity Fund and the World Bank hope that the success of this project will become a role model of how to undertake massive reforestation projects at an affordable cost. The plan is to take this success and apply it to other areas of deforestation around the world.