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

A study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Earth Observation and Modeling analyzed time-series satellite images from 2000 to 2021 to reveal the vital role of indigenous territories and protected areas in protecting forests in the Brazilian Amazon. The results of a recently published study Natural durability, drew attention to the negative effects of weakened government policies in recent years.

The Brazilian Amazon contains the largest area of ​​tropical forest with the greatest biodiversity in the world. Since 2000, indigenous areas and protected areas have increased significantly in the region, and in 2013, indigenous areas and protected areas accounted for 43% of the total land area and covered about 50% of the total forest area.

However, tensions between forest conservation and socio-economic development goals persist. As a result of the great socio-ecological changes that have taken place in Brazil in recent years, the protection of forests is under threat. The weakening of forest and environmental policies and their implementation, as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, have had a devastating impact on indigenous groups in the region.

In joint US-Brazil research, UO’s Center for Earth Observation and Modeling, Ph.D. Yuanwei Qin and Ph.D. Xiangming Xiao, fabio de Sa e Silva, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of International Studies and Wick Carey Professor of Brazilian Studies in OU’s College of International Studies, worked with staff at the Brazilian National Space Research Institute and the National Research Institute in the Amazon in Brazil. The research team combined multiple data sources to document and quantify the dynamics and impact of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon over the past two decades.

Due to frequent cloud cover and smoke caused by fires in the Brazilian Amazon, annual forest maps derived from optical image analyzes have only moderate accuracy. In a 2019 study published by the same journal, a research team combined image data from optical and microwave sensors to create annual maps of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Using these annual forest maps, they assessed the impact of local areas and protected areas on deforestation dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon until 2021.

“Between 2000 and 2021, areas designated as indigenous or protected areas increased to cover approximately 52% of the Brazilian Amazon’s forest, accounting for only 5% of net forest loss and 12% of total loss does. forests over time,” Qin said. “This discovery underscores the vital role of local areas and protected areas in protecting forests in the region. »

Protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon are subject to various state and national management agreements and have different management goals, including strict conservation or sustainable use. They found that from 2003 to 2021, total forest loss decreased by 48% in protected areas under strict protection, and by 11% in protected areas under sustainable use.

“These diverse impacts on forest conservation require further causal analysis by researchers and invite stakeholders, policy makers and the public to re-evaluate existing policies in these areas. Legal provisions are important, but if the law is not enforced, the intended protection of forests and biodiversity will be illusory. This is an area where Brazil has deliberately failed,” said de Sá e Silva.

The results of this study also show that annual forest area loss has been influenced by Brazil’s forest policy, as evidenced by the strong decline in forest area loss from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s under the administration of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula. da Silva 2003. -In 2010 and even further increases in forest area loss between indigenous areas and protected areas in 2019-2021 correspond to the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019-2022.

“How to rebuild effective policies and reduce forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon in the coming years will be one of the big challenges for the Lula administration and the international community,” Xiao said.

This study adds to a portfolio of research efforts by Qin and Xiao to document forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon, including a 2019 paper titled “Improved Estimates of Forest Cover and Loss in the Brazilian Amazon, 2000-2017.” Natural durability; “Carbon loss from forest degradation greater than deforestation in Brazilian Amazon” published in 2021 Natural climate change; as well as two others.

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Provided by Materials University of Oklahoma. Originally written by Chelsea Julian. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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