Turning degraded areas into forests and increasing the Planet's green infrastructure. Since 2006, The Nature Conservancy has been developing ecological restoration with partners in priority areas for water production and agricola sustaintability.
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of vegetation that has been degraded or completely destroyed in order to restore the health and integrity of the system. A major challenge is to achieve effective large-scale restoration through the adoption of cost-effective approaches. Forest and ecological restoration provide a number of ecological benefits, including reconnection of forest fragments, strengthening of green infrastructure, maintenance of biodiversity and genetic resources, increased forest cover and maintenance of environmental services (water and climate), apart from multiple socioeconomic benefits. The Nature Conservancy believes that benefits go beyond ecological aspects, and encourages the creation of new economic opportunities through restoration activities, not only in terms job creation, but also income generation for framers and entrepreneurs who use economically attractive species in areas where this type of production is permitted by law.
Restoration, Water and Climate
Forests are essential elements of terrestrial green infrastructure and play a key role in the water cycle and climate stabilization. Despite this, 30% of global forest cover has already been cleared and only 15% of primary forest remains. With respect to water resources, studies conducted by The Nature Conservancy and its partners show that the preservation and restoration of natural vegetation around springs and sources generate a positive return on investment in terms of water security, since they increase water flow and decrease treatment costs. With regards to climate, forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, principally during growth, contributing towards the mitigation of climate change.
The experience of The Nature Conservancy
Since 2006, The Nature Conservancy has been developing ecological restoration actions with various partners in priority areas for water production and agricultural sustainability in the States of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Pará. The aim is to develop macro-regional strategies, contemplating the entire landscape, enabling the continued provision of environmental services, stimulating public policy, generating local employment and income, and fostering distinct links in the restoration chain, ranging from seed collection, seedling production, and the actual restoration of areas. With the approval the new “Forest Code” it is expected that the demand for the restoration of native vegetation across Brazil will increase to an estimated 24 million hectares. To address this major challenge, The Nature Conservancy has carried out research to obtain a better understanding of the forest restoration supply chain and developed strategic regional business plans, encouraging restoration not only from a compliance point of view, but also to generate economic benefits for rural property owners.
The Main Lines of Action
Management of Large Scale Restoration Projects
The Nature Conservancy develops and implements restoration projects covering over an area of over 11,000 hectares in priority areas for water production and agricultural sustainability. Various approaches and methodologies are used and adapted according to the context of each region and self-recovery potential of each area, such as direct drilling, encouragement of natural regeneration, enrichment planting with native species, and direct seeding.
Strategic Forest Restoration Plans and Support for State Environmental Regularization Programs
The Nature Conservancy promotes the coordination and strengthening of public policies and executive arrangements to scale up projects and the dissemination of restoration manuals to guide the construction of State Environmental Regularization Programs (PRAs, acronym in Portuguese) and Strategic Forest Restoration Plans, which consist of a restoration supply chain assessment, identification of bottle necks and opportunities, and organization of the restoration agenda for each given region. To aid this process, The Nature Conservancy participates in the following entities: the Board of the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact, the Ministry of Environment working group on the development of the National Plan for the Restoration of Native Vegetation (PLANAVEG, acronym in Portuguese)and the Brazilian Climate, Forest and Agriculture Coalition.
New Restoration Technology
The Nature Conservancy pursues innovation in restoration methodologies aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing costs and, together with IPEA, EMBRAPA and the Ministry of Environment, is currently conducting an assessment of forest restoration costs across Brazil by restoration approach, biome and state. One of the aims of the survey is to optimize partnerships and increase the cost effectiveness of project implementation. The Nature Conservancy develops and supports projects geared towards valuing forest products with the aim of developing models of restoration that have the potential to generate economic benefits for farmers. These projects involve the implementation of agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, planting of native species and/or planting of native species interspersed with exotic species. Examples include: the project (Sustain the Forest), supported by the Brazilian Development Bank in the south of the State of Sao Paulo and north of the State of Parana, and the project Cacau Mais Sustentavel(More Sustainable Cocoa), developed in Sao Felix do Xingu in the State of Para.
Monitoring is a key component of the restoration process, and is essential for evaluating activities and whether changes are required to increase their effectiveness and reduce implementation costs. The Nature Conservancy and other organizations and companies, based on their experiences in the field, have developed a Monitoring and Restoration Protocol, which has the stamp of approval of the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact, which considers indicators of vegetation structure, composition and diversity.
Dissemination and Capacity Building
The Nature Conservancy develops and organizes courses, training workshops, publications, educational materials and field days to enhance knowledge of restoration ecology. The main projects that are currently underway include: the national forest restoration training program, guides focusing on regional forest species, and various manuals and booklets on forest restoration focusing on specific regions and targeted at field technicians and farmers.