Rebuilding effective governmental conservation policies is vital to reducing forest area loss in the Brazilian Amazon: OU Study

Photo of logging in the Brazilian Amazon. Photographer Tarcisio Schnaider. In recent years, forest conservation has been threatened by large socio-ecological changes in Brazil. A U.S.-Brazil study analyzed time series satellite images from 2000 to 2021, revealing the vital role of Indigenous territories and protected areas in forest conservation in the Brazilian Amazon

Indigenous territories and protected areas are key to forest conservation in the Brazilian Amazon, study shows

NORMAN, Okla., Jan. 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- A U.S.-Brazilian study led by the University of Oklahoma reveals the vital role of Indigenous territories and protected areas in forest conservation in the Brazilian Amazon. The study results, recently published in Nature Sustainability, call attention to the negative impacts of weakened governmental conservation policies in recent years.

Since 2000, Indigenous territories and protected areas have increased substantially in the Brazilian Amazon and by 2013, Indigenous territories and protected areas accounted for 43% of the total land area and covered approximately 50% of the total forest area. However in recent years, forest conservation has been threatened by large socio-ecological changes in Brazil. Weakened forest and environmental policies and enforcement as well as impacts from COVID-19 had devastating impacts on Indigenous groups in the region.

 

"Between 2000 and 2021, the areas designated as Indigenous territories or protected areas increased to cover approximately 52% of forests in the Brazilian Amazon, accounting for only 5% of net forest loss and 12% of gross forest loss in the period," said Yuanwei Qin, Ph.D, a research scientist at the University of Oklahoma. "This finding highlights the vital role of Indigenous territories and the protected areas for forest conservation in the region."

The protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon are subject to different state and national governance arrangements and have different management objectives, including strict protection or sustainable use. The researchers found that from 2003 through 2021, gross forest loss fell 48% in the protected areas subject to strict protection and 11% in the protected areas subject to sustainable use.

The results from this study also show that annual forest area loss was affected by Brazilian forest policies, as evidenced by a large reduction of forest area loss in the early 2000s to mid-2010s, corresponding with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration in 2003-2010, and renewed rise of forest area loss even among Indigenous territories and the protected areas in 2019-2021, corresponding with President Jair Bolsonaro's administration in 2019-2022.

"How to rebuild effective policies and reduce forest area loss in the Brazilian Amazon in the coming years will be one of the grand challenges for Lula's administration and international communities," said Xiangming Xiao, the report's primary author and the Director of OU's Center for Earth Observation and Modeling.

Read more about the study at ou.edu/research