While Brazil led the world in establishing new protected areas in recent years, it has also stripped legal protected status from some 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) of land, finds a new study published in the journal Conservation Biology.
The assessment, conducted by Brazilian researchers at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco and Imazon, identified 93 occurrences were protected areas were downgraded, downsized, and degazetted between 1981 and 2012. It found that such events have increased in frequency since 2008, mostly linked to power generation and transmission in the Amazon region.
“74% of them these changes occurred between 2008 and 2012,” said study co-author Elis Araújo of Imazon, noting that 19 protected areas were reduced in size between 2010 and 2012 due to the power industry. Brazil is in the midst of a dam-building spree across the Amazon basin.
The researchers added that weakening forest protection risks degrading important environmental services, including carbon sequestration and maintenance of local rainfall. The full cost however is not fully understood, according to the study.
“If parks and reserves are to maintain their integrity, there will need to be investments in Brazilian protected areas and a better understanding of the benefits protected areas provide,” the authors conclude.
CITATION: BERNARD, E., PENNA, L. A. O. and ARAÚJO, E. (2014). Downgrading, Downsizing, Degazettement, and Reclassification of Protected Areas in Brazil. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12298