In parallel to the global raise in environmental awareness in the 1970s, another important action against deforestation in the Atlantic forest was the approval of a federal decree in 1993 that establishes norms for its protection and sustainable use. Supported by law, government and civil organizations, aware of environmental deterioration, have been asking landholders to protect the remaining natural forest and to restore degraded lands using plantations of native tree species.
The restoration efforts have primarily focused on riparian zones and legal reserves. The Brazilian Forest Code defines riparian zones as protected areas and in the Atlantic forest, besides riparian zones, 20% of the rural property must be conserved as legal reserve.
Traditionally, the main strategy to conserve biodiversity in the coastal forest of southern Bahia has been the creation of protected areas that include the last remnants of primary forest. However, it is assumed that these relict forests may not be enough to sustain viable populations of several tree species because of isolation and the small size of forest remnants (only 5% of the forest fragments in southern Bahia are > 100 ha). To overcome effects of isolation, other strategies have been implemented in the region such as the establishment in 1998 of the Central Corridor of the Atlantic Forest. This “ecological” corridor is based on a network of large forest reserves that include the last remnants of primary forest and large areas of secondary forest. Some of these reserves were recently created in southern Bahia, e.g. Pau-Brazil National Park, Descobrimento National Park, and Serra do Conduru State Park. In addition, NGOs have also been actively promoting the creation of private reserves – National Patrimony Private Reserves (RPPN) - throughout southern Bahia. In 15 years, 58 private reserves have been created in the region covering around 13,000 ha.
When land use history is favorable, protecting and tending natural regeneration around forest remnants may be the most effective way of restoring deforested areas. However, in some situations the past land use around forest remnants has led sites to severe degradation. Within degraded areas, forest regeneration is often significantly delayed by physical or biological barriers, limiting the ability of less costly restoration strategies such as tending secondary forest regeneration or plantation by direct seeding. In such areas, the establishment of seedlings may be the only alternative to catalyze forest restoration, as tree plantations can attract seed dispersal agents into the landscape, thereby accelerating the recovery of these lands.
Raising Environmental Awareness
The second aspect, and the one most essential to the long-term sustainment of the forest, is the initiation dispensed on environmental issues.
Today, many associations have centers set up where in addition to laboratories and scientific equipment used to monitor the reforestation process, courses are given on issues related to the forest and its conservation.
Moreover, many initiatives are also implemented to raise awareness among the numerous rural communities that have a very high dependence on the forest’s natural resources. Efforts are made so that the local population can learn how to properly and most efficiently preserve the forest while continuing to live off its many assets – notably water. This also applies to private firms (mainly mining companies) and public administrations, which are often invited to conferences regarding the matter.