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A billion trees to be planted in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years

A billion trees to be planted in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years

A billion trees to be planted in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years
Jeremy Hance,
April 22, 2008

A billion trees to be planted in the Atlantic Forest over the next seven years

The Nature Conservancy has begun a program to plant a billion trees in Brazil’s dwindled Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest used to cover Brazil’s long coast, but today only seven percent of the forest remains. Both the megacities of Sao Paulo (the world’s fifth largest city) and Rio de Janeiro have emerged and grown in what used to be tropical forest. Yet, the forest remaining retains an incredible bio-diversity much of it endemic.

“No tropical forest on Earth has come closer to total destruction than Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, and now we have a real chance to bring this region back from the brink,” said Stephanie Meeks, acting president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “This is an unprecedented effort – nothing on this scale has ever been attempted in a single country in South America.”

The plan proposes to populate 2.5 million acres with a billion trees, which—as stated on the program’s website—will become a carbon sink for ten million tons of carbon. The program is focusing on specific areas of the degraded forest, especially ten watersheds. Zoologist and anthropologist, Dr. Karen Strier, who has performed field work in the Atlantic forest for twenty years, said that “protecting the Atlantic Forest watersheds is vital to protecting this threatened ecosystem and its endemic inhabitants.” The forest helps Brazil’s human population as well; already it provides water and hydro energy for 120 million Brazilians. Plant a Billion Trees will be working with several local Brazilian groups and other international groups. The program estimates that it will employ, both directly and indirectly, 90,000 workers for the job.

Several partners are included in this massive undertaking. The Green Planet, the first 24-hour station dedicated to living green, from the Discovery Channel, will hair a PSA announcement regarding the program. Penguin Books, Panasonic, and Organic Bouquet are other corporate sponsors. The Nature Conservancy is also working with the United Nations Environmental Programme, which has its own initiative to plant a billion trees yearly.

At its website, people can donate funds for the program. The Nature Conservancy is charging a dollar per tree. Four species of tree are currently being planted; these are the Golden Trumpet tree, the Guapuruvu tree, the Ice-Cream Bean tree, and Capororoca tree. “For every dollar donated, our goal is to leverage at least three dollars by mobilizing governments, farmers, communities, businesses, and NGOs to support the Atlantic Forest’s reforestation,” said Miguel Calmon, director of the Conservancy’s Atlantic Forest Program in Brazil. “By planting trees under the right environmental conditions, we’ll spark the growth of other trees and restore a healthy forest ecosystem.”

Despite the fact that less than 1/10th of the original forest survives, it still contains an immense richness of flora and fauna, much of it endemic and rare. 20,000 species of plants have been identified in the Atlantic Forest, nearly half of which are endemic; the forest also contains 72 mammals, 94 reptiles, 282 amphibians, and 144 birds found no-where else in the world. Many species, including 2 birds and a lion tamarin were discovered as recently as the 1990s. Among these biological marvels some notables include the world’s most endangered sloth, the Maned Sloth, named for its shaggy long fur; the Brazilian Arboreal Mouse known from only two specimens; and the Maximilian Snake-Necked Turtle, one of Brazil’s smallest turtles, growing no longer than 8 inches.

There are 23 species of primate in the Atlantic Forest. Two genera exist only in the fragmented forest. The first is the lion tamarin, which includes four separate species; these sunset-orange primates are strikingly different from their Amazonian relations. The forest also boasts America’s largest primates, the Southern and Northern Muriqui. The IUCN has classified the Southern Muriqui as endangered, while the Northern Muriqui is critically endangered.

While providing greater water and energy sources, acting as a carbon sink, and creating ‘green’ jobs, the Plant A Billion Trees initiative also hopes to help save the unique embattled wildlife of the Atlantic forest. According to the website, 251,025 trees have been planted.

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