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Brazil beefs up protection of Atlantic rain forest

Four new environmental conservation units and the expansion of a national park within the Atlantic Rain Forest biome in the state of Bahia have been announced by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

“The 65,070 hectares [161,000 acres] of new protected areas is essential to preserving biological diversity and protecting endangered species,” says a news release issued by the President’s Office.

The new national parks of Alto Cariri, Boa Nova and Serra das Lontras, and Wildlife Refuge of Boa Nova, and the expanded Pau Brasil National Park introduced on June 10 are expected to have high potential for ecotourism and bird watching, the statement added.

“These protected areas are now registered to receive federal funding and protection by the Ministry of Environment according to the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC)–a system Brazil established in 2000 to fulfill commitments made to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The SNUC falls under the umbrella of Brazil’s broader national plan to protect biodiversity and combat climate change,” the statement said.

Related National Geographic Magazine photos and story: The Rain Forest in Rio’s Backyard

Brazil has pledged to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent by 2020, and thereby effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent that year, according to the Secretariat for Social Communication (SECOM) of the President’s Office.

“In addition, Brazil supports biodiversity conservation efforts and is a strong advocate for the responsible and sustainable use of the products of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of their profits with traditional and indigenous communities–positions that it will reinforce at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.”

Brazil now has 307 federal conservation units, covering an area of 768,488 square kilometers (297,000 square miles), equivalent to the combined areas of Italy, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland, SECOM added.

“In this context, Brazil is the global leader in the creation of conservation units during the period from 2003 to 2010, with an expansion of roughly 269,000 square kilometers [104,000 square miles] and 73 new protected areas. Of the 700,000 square kilometers [270,000 square miles] declared as protected areas in the world since 2003, almost three quarters are in Brazil, a result largely attributed to the Program for Protected Areas in the Amazon (ARPA).

The addition of the new conservation units represents an increase of about 60 percent in the total landmass of protected areas in the state, and a 5 percent increase in total number of conservation units.

“These are significant increases, given that the Atlantic Forest biome currently has the smallest percentage of protected areas (8 percent) amongst all biomes in Brazil,” SECOM explained.

The new conservation units listed by SECOM are:

The Alto Cariri National Park: Located in the municipality of Guaratinga with an area of 19,264 hectares (48,000 acres), this region has high biological importance because it is home to the last remaining large-scale areas of Atlantic Forest in the eastern region of southern Bahia and the northeast corner of Minas Gerais state.

The Boa Nova National Park and Boa Nova Wildlife Refuge: With total area of 27,089 hectares (67,000 acres), this region includes a transitional area between rain forests, sheltering both Atlantic Forest and Caatinga biomes with many rare and endemic species of plants and animals.

The Serra das Lontras National Park: This 11,336-hectare (28,000 acres) conservation unit was established to protect the Montana Forest, a distinctive landscape of the Atlantic Forest that occurs at altitudes above 400 meters (1,300 feet).

The Extension of Pau Brasil National Park: Located in the municipality of Porto Seguro, this additional 7,381 hectares (18,000 acres) of protected land increases the total area of Pau Brasil National Park to 18,934 hectares (47,000 acres).

Posted by David Braun

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