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Time to replant

São Paulo prepares new regulations for the reforestation of degraded areas

MIGUEL BOYAYANParameters for the recovery of forests will be updated in a new resolutionMIGUEL BOYAYAN

The forestry recovery of degraded areas in the State of São Paulo should gain more detailed and efficient parameters. A workshop involving more than 100 specialists, which took place at the end of November at the Botanic Institute of the State Environmental Secretariat (SMA), gathered together assistance for the reformulation of a resolution launched by the SMA in 2003. Among the new ideas presented one can highlight the inclusion of information about the tree species threatened with extinction or those that attract the fauna, as well as the suggestion of an index of specific measures, which will be available and always updated on the website of the SMA’s Botanic Institute and could be adopted under different situations, in degraded areas or those under recovery. The criteria will serve as the basis for a new SMA resolution, which will be published by the end of 2006 or early 2007.

“We’ve managed to perfect the parameters in such a way that now they only need to be re-revised within three years”, says Luiz Mauro Barbosa, the Botanic Institute’s director and organizer of the workshop. “The São Paulo researchers are serving the national interest. Our intention is that the studies in Sao Paulo can serve as the basis for the creation of a national policy of environmental preservation”, added the then Secretary of the Environment, José Goldemberg, who participated in a symposium about the recovery of degraded areas, which took place parallel to the workshop.

The São Paulo resolutions concerning the rescue of forests have been awakening the interest of other states and also the federal environmental authorities. Its evolution is symbolic of the advance in knowledge within this field. In the middle of the decade of the 1980’s and at the start of the decade of the 1990’s, in spite of the already existing recommendations for the planting of highly diverse species, this was rarely attended to. Operational difficulties for the production of offshoots and the lack of guidance and effective fiscal coverage could have been pointed to as the main causes of the problem. A survey carried out by the Botanic Institute between 1999 and 2000, within public policies projects, and funded through FAPESP, revealed sore points coming from the non-observance of this recommendation. Of the 98 areas reforested in the state during the previous ten years, covering a total of 2,500 hectares, only two were in a satisfactory condition. In more than 80% of the cases the trees had simply died. This was because the areas had been populated by some few species of fast growing trees, the so called “pioneers”, which have a short life cycle.

During the first few years everything appeared fine, with rapid forestry thickening taking place. But around ten years after their planting the majority of them had disappeared, opening up space for the invasion of popular dense thickets. Problems were also detected in areas in which there had been the concern about combining pioneer species with the so called “secondary shade seeking” or “slow growing trees”, with a longer life cycle. It is those that conquer space after the primary types die off. It so happened that the variety shortage of planted species had left the areas susceptible to pests. In a good number of these studied reforested areas the number of tree species had hardly reached thirty. In regions of natural Atlantic Rainforest that are well preserved, the varieties found are from 100 to 350 species in only 1 hectare.

Continuing their research, the Botanic Institute researchers went out into the field to trace out the first parameters for reforestation, in a project financed by FAPESP that is forecast to end in March of 2007. The first fruit of this effort was the advent of Resolution SMA-21, published during 2001, which went on to demand greater native tree diversity, the mixing of pioneering species with the slow growing ones. “At the time there were lots of complaints from the nursery gardeners who didn’t have the variety of offshoots to sell”, recalls Barbosa. “But the resolution was fundamental for modifying the market and for forcing it to produce a differentiated brand of trees?, the researcher says. According to the  norm, the number of species planted will depend on the size of the area (the greater the area, the more different species of trees that must be used) and the presence of forestry stands in the neighboring areas, which, by itself, already helps to spread the species in a diverse manner. The resolution’s text also forecasts a revision of the parameters every two years.

Endangered
The new version of the legislation came about two years later. Resolution SMA -47, of 2003, increased the list of species to around 500, a number that should be widened even more in the new version of the resolution to be proposed. It has gone on to provide guidance for areas greater than 1 hectare using at least 80 native species. It has also determined a percentage of at least 40% of both the short cycle and long cycle growing species. “Thus we’ve established parameters for the two cases, with margins of maneuver of up to 20% for the two categories”, says Barbosa.

Throughout 2006, eight research groups discussed new contributions to the legislation. The future resolution must correct a certain inflexibility brought about by the previous norm – instead of publishing a catalogue of native trees, it will only submit a list to the Botanic Institute’s website (www.ibot.sp.gov.br), with initially 700 species that will be periodically up-dated. Another problem detected is that, in some regions of the state, there has been little research about the occurrence of native species. The solution found was to determine that, where there is a shortage of information, the reforesting projects must sponsor regional surveys of species, which will receive priority during reforestation.

It is hoped that the new norm will be in force for at least three years, but what will determine this limit will be the advance of knowledge. A series of new studies promises to bring contributions. One of these studies is testing the behavior of species when planted in fertilized hollows, in the middle of reforestation projects. “As well we have to advance in questions such as genetic diversity of offshoots, the licensing of nursery gardens and the granting of certificates for seeds and offshoots”, suggests Barbosa. The challenges are enormous. Studies indicate the need to recover 1.3 million hectares of riparian vegetation – the vegetation that grows along the margins of rivers. The Riparian Vegetation Program, a priority for the SMA, has the support of the World Bank. “This task will take more than 100 years. We need to plant, at the minimum, 26 million offshoots per year and to guarantee the sustainability of the native species of each region”, says Barbosa.

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