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With the power of the law

Biota-FAPESP map becomes the parameter for removing native vegetation in São Paulo

Biota project data are already guiding the government’s actions

Scientific data compiled by the Biota-FAPESP Program are now guiding the criteria for the authorization of the removal of native vegetation in the State of São Paulo. A resolution of the SMA (State Bureau for the Environment) established that the assessment of all requests for using areas with native forests is to be based on the categories of relevancy for the restoration defined in the map “Priority Areas for Connectivity Increment”. Pesquisa FAPESP published in November 2007 (issue 141) a large map showing the connectivity data, among other information. The work was conducted over the last two years by 160 researchers from Biota-FAPESP (Research Program on the Characterization, Conservation and Sustainable Use of São Paulo State Biodiversity) jointly with the SMA.

“One of the program’s initial objectives was to provide public policy guidelines. After 10 years, we managed to compile enough data to fulfill this objective,” said the program’s coordinator, Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, to Agência FAPESP. According to Rodrigues, the resolution shows the effectiveness of the use of scientific data in the formulation of state public policies in the environmental area. “Very importantly, the criteria will now have a scientific basis,” said Rodrigues, a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences of the Luiz de Queiroz School of Agriculture (Esalq) of the University of São Paulo (USP).

Since its establishment in 1999, Biota-FAPESP enabled the description of over 500 species of plants and animals spread throughout the State of São Paulo’s 250 thousand square kilometers, produced 75 research projects, 150 master’s degree theses and 90 doctoral dissertations, in addition to over 500 articles in 170 periodicals, 16 books and two atlases, thanks to an average annual investment by FAPESP of US$ 2.5 million.

Priority areas
The resolution relies on Biota data to determine the criteria used in order not to authorize the use of areas that function as ecological corridors and biodiversity shelters. The connectivity map highlights such priority areas. “We identified the priority segments for conservation on the maps, and we indicated the areas to offset legal reserves of rural properties, in addition to recommending the connection of these fragments through the restoration of vegetation so it can work as an ecological corridor,” he said.

According to the professor, out of the 3.5 million hectares of remaining vegetation in the state, only 760 thousand are within conservation units. “The rest belongs to private owners. In order to conserve them, the proposal is to transform them into a legal reserve. Regarding the best areas of these plots of land, we recommend transforming them into a Private Natural Asset Reserve,” he said. According to the resolution, whoever wishes to request the elimination of native vegetation within the limit of the areas marked as priority by Biota must submit a fauna and flora study, regardless of the regeneration stage of the vegetation. Elimination and exploration of native areas will only be allowed in areas that do not harbor endangered flora and fauna species. Authorizations must comply with the criteria established in the connectivity map.