Projects recreate ecosystems in Amazon, Atlantic Forest

The restoration of forests in Brazil has been gaining supporters in the private sector and also in the public sector. Despite the long and uncertain way to go to reach the government’s goal of recovering 12 million hectares until 2030, recent initiatives like the one from newcomer re.green, the multinational packaging company Tetra Pak, the Floresta Viva program, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), and the award-winning NGO Sociedade Chauá are in line with the objectives of the United Nations, which declared the current decade as one of ecosystem restoration. The success of actions in the Atlantic Forest and the Amazon represents the capture of more than 18 million tonnes of carbon and the reduction of the risk of extinction of more than 1.000 species, according to a study by the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS).

“We already are in a climate emergency and in one of mass extinction of biodiversity. We have less than a decade to avoid irreversible devastating consequences. Restoration at scale helps solve both crises”, says Bernardo Strassburg, one of the founders of re.green, created with the purpose of restoring at least 1 million hectares of forests, almost 10% of the national goal, which has made little progress. The initiative is ambitious and still unprecedented in the world. Its success will allow the capture of 15 million tonnes of CO2/year. The company is led by a group of specialists (Mr. Strassburg has provided consulting services to the UN, the World Bank, and Conservation International) and has names such as Armínio Fraga, Fábio Barbosa, and João Moreira Salles on its board.

re.green, which was born with R$359 million to finance the start of its operations, will recreate ecosystems in an identical compositions of those in the Atlantic Forest and Amazon, ensuring the integrity of the forest and its biodiversity. To do so, the team will collect samples in chosen areas to sequence all living organisms in that ecosystem, ensuring greater accuracy in defining the species present and, thus, the perpetuity of the vegetation. “This technique will generate a lot of science. We are talking to funding agencies. We want the areas to be a big international science playground. We know that there is still a lot to learn,” says Mr. Strassburg. The funds will come from the sale of carbon credits and environmental services.

Tetra Pak has chosen Brazil to invest in its forest restoration project, specifically the araucaria forests in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, as a way to reach the world target of neutralizing its emissions until 2030. The option for the South region of Brazil is due to the threat of extinction of the araucaria forest, which originally occupied 200,000 square kilometers in the region. Today, only 3% of its original formation is in good condition, equivalent to about 6,000 km2.

Valeria Michel — Foto: Silvia Costanti / Valor

Valeria Michel — Foto: Silvia Costanti / Valor

Tetra Pak’s goal is to create a biodiversity corridor between Paraná and Santa Catarina, reforesting 7,000 hectares. In the pilot project in Urubici (Santa Catarina), which started this year, methodologies will be tested to be replicated in the future for the restoration of the whole planned area. “Besides the restoration, there will also be payment for environmental services, both for the carbon to be generated and for the biodiversity, which is something new,” says Valéria Michel, Tetra Pak Brazil’s head of Sustainability.

Another initiative for the restoration of araucaria forest comes from the Chauá Society, headed by forest engineer Pablo Hoffmann, winner of the Whitley Award – seen as the “green Nobel” – for his work in the preservation of Brazilian biodiversity, research, and reforestation. Operating since 1997, Mr. Hoffmann and his team have built nurseries with more than 250 species (in general, projects use about 30 types).

The nursery has 210 types of plants native to the Araucaria forest alone. The work consists of mapping the plants in the fields, collecting the seeds, transporting them to the nursery, germinating them, and replanting them in the original system. “We always try to collect the maximum number of species with the greatest genetic diversity. This facilitates the perpetuation of the restoration over time. We focus on endangered species. This is the motivation for the project,” says Mr. Hoffmann.

The BNDES joined the forest restoration initiative through its Floresta Viva program, launched in 2021. The goal is to reach up to 33,000 hectares of restored area, capturing about 9 million tonnes of CO2. The match-funding program already has R$600 million (the goal was R$500 million but was exceeded in March) and 13 partner companies.

Source: Valor International

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