A new project seeks to kickstart a revival for the world’s largest rainforest by planting new trees — tens of millions of them.
The project, announced Friday at the “Rock in Rio” music fest in Brazil, aims to restore 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon by 2023. Spanning 30,000 hectares of land (about 74,000 acres), the project is the largest tropical forest restoration in the world and helps Brazil move towards its Paris Agreement target of reforesting 12 million hectares of land by 2030.
“This is a breathtakingly audacious project,” said M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International (CI), one of the partners behind the effort. “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 Amazon forest is home to the richest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet — a recent report described some 400 new species discovered in the Amazon between 2014 and 2015 alone — yet is rapidly vanishing with increasing global demand for resources. The economy, essentially focused on the exploitation of natural resources, minerals and agribusiness, has already led to about 20 percent of original forest cover to be replaced by pastures and agricultural crops, without securing the well-being of the local population. The reforestation project fills an urgent need to develop the region’s economy without destroying its forests and ensuring the well-being of its people.
“A new chapter is being written for the Brazilian Amazon with this initiative,” said Rodrigo Medeiros, vice president of CI’s Brazil office. “Protecting the Amazon is not something we should think in the future — we have to do it now.”
The project is a partnership between Conservation International, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio) and Rock in Rio’s environmental arm “Amazonia Live.”
The reforestation effort is part of a broader regional initiative, the Amazonia Sustainable Landscapes Project. This project aims to increase the area of forest ecosystems, promote the connectivity of protected areas within the Amazon, and further develop local productive activities and value chains derived from the sustainable use of Amazonian biodiversity, including production of native species of seeds and seedlings.
Priority areas for the restoration effort include southern Amazonas, Rondônia, Acre, Pará and the Xingu watershed. Restoration activities will include the enrichment of existing secondary forest areas, sowing of selected native species, and, when necessary, direct planting of native species, Medeiros said.
Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.