To help restore some of the 29.6 million acres of Brazil’s rainforest, a multimillion-dollar initiative, “ the largest tropical reforestation project in history” aims to plant 73 million new trees on 70,000 acres (about 35,000 soccer football pitches ) of land over the next six years. The replanting will target an area of the rainforest known as the “arc of deforestation,” which traverses the Xingu watershed and four of Brazil’s 26 states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Acre and Pará.
To help restore some of the 29.6 million acres of Brazil’s rainforest, a multimillion-dollar initiative, “the largest tropical reforestation project in history” aims to plant 73 million new trees on 70,000 acres (about 35,000 soccer football pitches ) of land over the next six years. The replanting will target an area of the rainforest known as the “arc of deforestation,” which traverses the Xingu watershed and four of Brazil’s 26 states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Acre and Pará.
This multimillion dollar initiative, led by U.S.-based NGO Conservation International, is supported by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund and Amazonia Live, the environmental fundraising arm of the music festival Rock in Rio, as well as by the NGO Global Environmental Facility and the World Bank.
The aim is not only to meet climate-change targets agreed upon under the Paris Accord, but also to learn how to re-establish tropical forests. The importance of this project to the world and to Brazil cannot be exaggerated. As M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, has stated, ” This is a breathtakingly audacious project, and the fate of the Amazon depends on getting this right—as do the 25 million residents of the region, its countless species and the climate of our planet.”
The “muvuca” strategy
Traditional re-forestation techniques, such as planting thousands of saplings, have a high failure rate. To improve the success rate, this project will employ the “muvuca” approach, a direct-seeding method in which seeds from more than 200 native forest species are spread over every square meter of burnt, mismanaged or deforested land. The seeds will be purchased from the Xingu Seed Network, which, since 2007, has collected and supplied native tree seeds to more than 30 organizations. The network comprises 450 seed collector groups made up of indigenous women and local youths from across 19 municipalities of the Xingu’s watershed who collect seeds from the native Brazil nut, rubber and mahogany trees, among others. In addition, the Xingu Seed Network promotes training for seed collectors while helping to conserve the forests and the values and culture of the indigenous inhabitants. To encourage support, local families are paid about $700 for every acre that is reforested. All this happens under the guidance and support of project sponsors.
“With plant-by-plant reforestation techniques, you get a typical density of about 160 plants per hectare (2.47 acres),”states Rodrigo Medeiros, vice president of Conservation International’s Brazil program. But by using muvuca direct seeding, the initial outcome is about 1000 [trees] per acres, and after 10 years you can reach 2,500 trees per acre. The muvuca process provides a more diverse and denser forest and at $2,023 per acre is less than half the cost of the traditional method of planting seedlings. Medeiros notes that Brazil has already used the muvuca method to bring new life to “springs, rivers and streams that were suffering from the lack of water,” and local farmers have seen an increase in crop yields.
Brazil’s target of restoring 29 million acres of rain forest by 2030 could contribute to meeting its climate-change targets; scientists have found that over 40 years, Latin America’s second-growth forests can store the equivalent of 21 years’ worth of the region’s human carbon dioxide emissions. The Amazon forest is a natural carbon-capture and storage system. Retaining and reforesting the rainforest could be a low-cost way of reducing emissions; according to a UK Treasury study, at a carbon price of $35 to $50, per 2.47105 acres of forest land could be worth as much as $25,000 in terms of carbon sequestration.
Reforestation will also help to protect around 40,000 species of plants, over 400 mammals including sloths, armadillos and jaguars, and about 1300 kinds of birds and millions of insects. Indeed the South American forests are a natural pharmacy, providing ingredients for up to half the pharmaceuticals marketed today.
This is a highly ambitious, expensive and enormous program to be implemented over a vast area and completed in just six years. For a successful outcome it requires significant on-the-ground organizational capabilities along with local trained and informed participants. However, by adopting the muvuca technique of spreading a diverse mix of native tree seeds rather than planting individual saplings, the chances of success are improved more than 15 fold.
READ MORE: The world’s largest reforestation project by RP Siegel