Governing the Atlantic Forest transition: Improving knowledge on forest recovery for ecosystem services

Photo: René Verburg

This project assesses the socio-economic, ecological and political barriers to and opportunities for reforestation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.

After centuries of forest loss, only 12% of the original extent of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest remains. This historical decline has now transitioned into a modest increase. However, the voluntary nature of reforestation activities by landscape actors poses a large challenge to reforestation policy goals, since the vast and highly productive agricultural areas in the state of São Paulo have a strong restorative effect on land rent prices. This makes reforestation highly expensive and as a result, mainly marginal and degraded pastureland are restored. This will not always generate the desired effects in terms of biodiversity conservation and the provision of other ecosystem services.

This project measures and models ecosystem services distribution to support landscape governance. To improve the effectiveness of restoration strategies, the enabling policy environments for payments of ecosystem services will be assessed to develop proper incentives for forest restoration and provision of ecosystem services.

Forest transitions, such as occurring in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, are a complex topic of research that involves many different stakeholders. Through international and interdisciplinary research we can increase the academic understanding, and can further optimise models. Two manners of improving models are explored; better evidence, and better representations of the system that is modelled. Bringing ‘people’ into the equation may lead to relevant new findings and solutions.

The project is carried out by Anna Duden in collaboration with René Boot, René Verburg, Pita Verweij, and Alexandre Camargo Martensen (Federal University of São Carlos & Natural Science Centre – Lagoa do Sino Campus (UFSCar)). The project is funded by a collaboration of NWO (the Netherlands) and FAPESP (Brazil).