biodiversity conservation (3) and forest resto-
ration programs (4), especially in the Atlantic
Forest, where only 12 to 16% of the original
forest cover remains (5).
Furthermore, both old and new FCs allow
an additional 88 ± 6 Mha of legal deforestation on private properties (table S4 and the figure). This area of native vegetation, exceeding
LR and RPA conservation requirements, constitutes an “environmental surplus” with the
potential to emit 18 ± 4 GtCO2e (SM, §2.1).
New Mechanisms for New Markets
Although the 2012 FC reduces restoration
requirements, it introduces new mechanisms
to address fire management, forest carbon,
and payments for ecosystem services, which
could reduce deforestation and bring environmental benefits. Perhaps the most important mechanism is the Environmental Reserve
Quota (Portuguese acronym, CRA), a tradable
legal title to areas with intact or regenerating
native vegetation exceeding the FC requirements. The CRA (surplus) on one property
may be used to offset a LR debt on another
property within the same biome and, preferably, the same state. Implementating the CRA
could create a trading market for forested
lands, adding monetary value to native vegetation. This CRA market could potentially
abate 56% of the LR debt (fig. S3). Given the
high costs of forest restoration (6), exchange
of CRAs could become a cost-effective way
to facilitate compliance, meanwhile protecting forest surpluses that might otherwise be
legally deforested. A balanced use of CRAs
should focus on improving functional and
ecological attributes of forested landscapes,
e.g., habitat integrity (and thus biodiversity),
carbon stocks, and water balance regulation,
crucial for maintaining hydroelectric power
generation in Brazil (7).
One of the strongest arguments of the agri-
business lobby is that forest restoration con-
flicts with agricultural production. Our results
suggest that, with respect to land availability,
this concern is unfounded. Of the 4.5 ± 1 Mha
of RPAs slated for restoration, only 0.6 ± 0.35
Mha are currently occupied by crops, repre-
senting less than 1% of all croplands nation-
wide. Moreover, if restoration of the remain-
ing LR debt (after compensation via CRAs)
occurred exclusively in pasturelands unsuit-
able for agriculture, as few as ≈ 550,000 ha
of required restoration would remain in ara-
ble lands (SM §§2.2 and 2.3 and figs. S3 to
S5). Such a large-scale transition from cattle
ranching to agriculture would require sub-
stantial increases in stocking densities to sus-
tain current levels of meat production and
allow for forest restoration. To this end, Bra-
zil has created a national Low-Carbon Agri-
culture (ABC) program that provides ~U.S.
1.5 billion in annual subsidized loans aimed
at increasing agricultural productivity while
reducing associated carbon emissions and
supporting forest restoration (table S5).
Key to success of the FC is the Rural Environmental Registry System (SICAR), a geo-referenced Web system that will enable documentation of over 5 million rural properties,
improving transparency and providing a pathway to environmental compliance. SICAR
could facilitate the market for CRAs and payments for ecosystem services [for example,
(8)], which will be critical to offset the often-prohibitive costs of forest restoration, especially for small landowners. We estimate that
elimination of the FC debt via forest restoration would sequester up to 9 ± 2 GtCO2e
Enforcement and Private Initiatives
Effective implementation of Brazil’s 2012
FC will be enormously challenging. The
first crucial challenge is to convince the agribusiness sector of the potential gains from
the new FC. Even though law enforcement
activities have intensified in recent years, the
agribusiness constituency has historically
taken advantage of the government’s relatively weak enforcement of environmental
laws. Amnesty afforded by the new FC could
lead to the perception that illegal deforesters
are unlikely to be prosecuted and may even
be exonerated in future law reforms. To meet
this challenge, Brazil must continue to invest
in its monitoring and enforcement capabilities. Satellite-based deforestation monitoring systems maintained by the National
Institute for Space Research (INPE) need to
be expanded to other Brazilian biomes and
adapted to detect subtler land-use changes,
including forest degradation and deforestation in savannahs, riparian forests, and small
remnants of the Atlantic Forest.
More important, there is a need to
strengthen and integrate efforts across the
myriad state and federal agencies responsible
for implementing the FC, establishing clear
land tenure, granting environmental licenses,
and supporting agricultural production. This
integrated system must be transparent and
harnessed to economic incentives for conservation; otherwise, it might only exhort land-owners to exercise rights to deforest (9).
Fortunately, private initiatives are aligning to assist landowners in attaining compliance. These include international certification standards, commodity roundtables, and
boycotts of agricultural products grown in
recently deforested or high-biodiversity areas.
Increasingly, farmers and ranchers are adhering to voluntary registries that require commitments to improving social and environmental performance [for example, (10, 11)].
Both certification schemes and voluntary registries may eventually enable access to special
markets that provide financial incentives to
participating producers. These mechanisms
are particularly important in the Cerrado, the
most coveted biome for agribusiness expansion, given its 40 ± 3 Mha of environmental
surplus that could be legally deforested (table
S4). Moreover, conservation efforts must aim
at expanding protected areas outside the Amazon. Whereas these areas cover 46% of the
Brazilian Amazon, the level of protection in
other major biomes (7% of the Cerrado and
2.6% of the Atlantic Forest) is well below the
17% recommended by the 10th Convention
on Biological Diversity. Conservation initiatives will be vital to protect large expanses of
native vegetation, particularly in the Cerrado
and Caatinga, where additional protection by
land-use zoning is low.
Brazil has achieved an unprecedented success in reducing deforestation in the Amazon. However, this gain is not yet secured.
Recently, deforestation rates ceased to decline
in the Amazon and Atlantic Forest, and surged
in the Cerrado (fig. S6). Our analysis suggests
that the FC will allow additional deforestation, especially in the Cerrado and Caatinga.
Economic incentives for conserving forests,
including the Warsaw Framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation as (REDD+), will be essential to
help implement the FC and to enable Brazil to
better reconcile environmental conservation
with agricultural development.
References and Notes
1. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystem and Human
Well-Being: Synthesis (Island Press, Washington, DC,
2. Federal Law 12.727, 17 October 2012; www.planalto.
3. A. C. Lees, C. A. Peres, Conserv. Biol. 22, 439 (2008).
4. R. Rodrigues et al., For. Ecol. Manage. 261, 1605 (2011).
5. M. Ribeiro et al., Biol. Conserv. 142, 1141 (2009).
6. R. Cury, O. Carvalho, “Manual para restauro florestal:
Florestas de transição” (IPAM, Canarana, 2011).
7. C. M. Stickler et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 110,
8. Project Oasis, Fundação Grupo Boticário; www.funda-
9. R. Rajão et al., Public Adm. Dev. 32, 229 (2012).
10. Aliança da Terra, aliancadaterra.org.br.
11. Round Table on Responsible Soy Association, responsible-soy.org.
Acknowledgments: See the supplementary materials for
funding services and acknowledgments.