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Rate of deforestation in Amazon slowing


07 Sep 2006 - Brazilia, Brazil – Deforestation rates in the Amazon are declining, but ranching, logging and agriculture activities are still responsible for continued degradation of the world’s largest rainforest, according to data released by the Brazilian government.

The new data — covering the period from 1 August 2005 to 1 August 2006 — estimates an 11 per cent reduction in deforestation rates.

According to WWF-Brazil, a number of factors may explain the decrease, including a reduction in the price of soy, Brazil’s most important agricultural commodity, which may have reduced the incentive to cut down the Amazon to make way for new plantations.

“The decline is encouraging, but we are not out of the woods yet,” said WWF-Brazil’s CEO Denise Hamú.

“More concerted action is required to integrate the government’s environmental and development policies in order to really crack down on illegal activities that are having an adverse effect on the forest. Encouraging policies that foster a sustainable forestry-based regional economy should be pursued.”

Carried out in the right way, sustainable forestry activities can generate income, ensure a plentiful supply of timber in the long term, and ensure that forests continue to be ecologically functional. That is why many of WWF’s activities are designed to improve forestry practices, in addition to seeking more protection.

WWF-Brazil is part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) initiative — a partnership between the Brazilian government, the World Bank, Global Environment Facility, German Development Bank and the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund — which has helped create some 20 million hectares of protected areas in the Amazon.

A considerable number of the world’s plants and animals live in the Amazon, most of which remain undiscovered by scientists. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1,294 birds, 378 reptiles, 427 amphibians, and some 3,000 fish species have been scientifically classified in the region.

“Through ARPA we are creating parks and reserves in areas that risk being rapidly deforested,” explained Cláudio Maretti, head of WWF-Brazil’s protected areas programme, which supports the ARPA initiative.

"We are not only ensuring biodiversity conservation in perpetuity in these areas, but we are also bringing order to the land tenure chaos that leads to uncontrolled deforestation.”

According to experts, around 17 per cent of the natural vegetation in the Brazilian Amazon has already been devastated by development, logging and farming.

“Improved land tenure in the agricultural sector has been a key element in the reduction of deforestation rates,” Maretti added. “The setting aside of indigenous reserves and protected areas under ARPA are two fundamental tools enabling the government to assert its ownership over public lands in the Brazilian Amazon against land grabbers and speculators.”


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