The Brazilian Atlantic rainforest once spanned in excess of a million square kilometres. However, nowadays it barely covers 7% of that. The deforestation that has occurred has left farmers and wildlife with failing springs, receding groundwater and destroyed habitats.
An ambitious project in Brazil’s most crowded state, São Paulo, aims to bring the rainforest and its ecosystem back. Reported in Science (23rd Feb), Bernice Wuethrich reveals how the Riparian Forest Restoration Project aims to restore a million hectares of rainforest through experiments with different restoration methods in five pilot projects.
The project will not just place emphasis on replanting trees alone, unlike past projects it will aim to restore a variety of plants and animals simultaneously. Their tactics include moving squares of topsoil from intact forest to deliver soil microbes, fauna and fungi to previously forested areas. In addition they will be planting groundcover to attract butterflies and other insects.
Bernice Wuethrich rightly points out that just concentrating on the biological aspects of the project is not enough. Participation and support from locals is key to its success. Farmers, for instance, volunteer land for replanting, while local children could well work as environmental monitors.
The São Paulo government, which is currently looking at establishing an ecosystem services fund, has suggested that this project might be a good model for the whole of Brazil.
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