Thursday, January 31, 2013

URGENT ALERT! Mangrove International Action Needed for Reversing Brazil's Forest Code

Manifest for Brazilian mangroves
            Recent amendments to Brazilian Forest Code (BFC) threatens the country’s status as the second largest mangrove area in the world (1). Contrary to major scientific advisory (2–18) and public opinion (19), government made legal for shrimp farmers and salt producers to convert tidal wetland ecosystems into ponds. Changes are being encouraged throughout the country considering BFC is a Federal regulation and applies nationally. In the Amazon biome (which comprises the coasts of the States of Amapá, Pará and Maranhão), where 60% of Brazilian mangroves are located(20), 10% of these systems can be converted. Along the rest of the shoreline, 35% can be converted. Additionally, this regulation also assures amnesty to transgressors that occupied these areas until July 22, 2008.
What do mangroves, salt flats and sea level have in common? Contrary to earlier forecasts, sea levels are rising 60% faster than predicted, showing once again that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is far from alarmist, but in fact has under-estimated the problem of climate change (25). Mangroves, salt marshes, salt flats and mud flats are typical elements found in the tidal wetland ecosystems throughout the world. One area may fluctuate between these “states” over space and time depending on sea level oscillations. Evidences on salt flats colonization by mangrove tree species has been continually reported by Scientists worldwide (26–31). In this scenario, salt flats will sustain future mangrove communities.            Assessments made prior to the consolidation of shrimp farming industry in Brazil revealed that the country had already had lost 50,000 ha between the years of 1985 and 2000 due to diverse causes(21). Nevertheless, it is estimated that shrimp farming industry alone is responsible for the conversion of another 50,000 ha of the country’s tidal wetland ecosystems into ponds (22, 23), mainly on salt flats (24).
            Despite the increasing growth rate of shrimp farming in Brazil during the past decade (from 7,000 to 90,000 tonnes per year production), its CO2 emissions — resulting from both land conversion and shrimp production — have not been included in Brazil’s emission statistics (2, 25), thereby underestimating the country’s share in the responsibility of climate change mitigation.
            Salt flat conversions outlined in the BFC could lead to staggering mangrove losses and hugely increase CO2 emissions, considering that these systems possibly store an equivalent to roughly 2.5 times annual global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (26). Considering only shrimp farms that have already been installed in the country, these land conversions correspond to 1.5% of all Brazilian marine wetlands, or only 0.03% of the national territory; however, they alone account for 1% of the total Brazilian yearly CO2 emissions (2, 27).
            Considering Brazil’s mangrove coverage, which makes it a critical player on the mitigation of the CO2 effects and climate change stabilization, we ask for international support to help in reversing this horrible political decision. Join us by exerting any type of pressure, either by divulgating this absurd decision or by writing straight to our government representatives (contact info attached).
            Thank you very much.

"Instituto Bioma Brasil (IBB) and Contributors"
Authors who contributed to this article:
André Rovai (UFSC / IBB)
Paulo Pagliosa (UFSC)
Alessandra Fonseca (UFSC)
Ricardo Menghini (MPSP)
Yara Schaeffer-Novelli (IOUSP / IBB)
Gilberto Cintron-Molero (FWS)
Clemente Coelho-Júnior (UPE / IBB)
Renato almeida (UFRBA / IBB)
Marília Cunha Lignon (UNIFESP / IBB)

Literature cited:
1. M. Spalding, M. Kainuma, L. Collins, World Atlas of Mangroves (Earthscan, London, UK, 2010), p. 319.
2. P. R. Pagliosa, A. S. Rovai, A. L. Fonseca, Carbon mismanagement in Brazil, Nature Climate Change 2, 764–764 (2012).
3. A. S. Rovai, R. P. Menghini, Y. Schaeffer-Novelli, G. Cintrón-Molero, C. Coelho-Jr, Protecting Brazil’s coastal wetlands, Science 335, 1571–1572 (2012).
4. J. P. Metzger et al., Brazilian Law: Full Speed in Reverse?, Science 329, 276–277 (2010).
5. A. G. Nazareno, Call to veto Brazil’s forest-code revisions, Nature 481, 29 (2012).
6. Y. Schaeffer-Novelli, A. S. Rovai, C. Coelho-Jr, R. P. Menghini, R. Almeida, in Código Florestal e a Ciência: o que nossos legisladores ainda precisam saber, (Comitê Brasil em Defesa das Florestas e do Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Brasília DF, 2012), pp. 18–27.
7. F. Michalski, D. Norris, C. A. Peres, No Return from Biodiversity Loss, Science 329, 1282 (2010).
8. F. R. Silva, V. H. M. Prado, D. C. Rosa-Feres, Value of Small Forest Fragments to Amphibians, Science 332, 1033–1033 (2011).
9. L. F. Toledo, S. P. Carvalho-e-Silva, C. Sánchez, M. A. Almeida, C. F. B. Haddad, The review of the Brazilian Forest Act: harmful effects on amphibian conservation, Biota Neotropica 10, 35–38 (2010).
10. L. Cassati, Changes in the Brazilian Forest Code: potential impacts on the ichthyofauna, Biota Neotropica 10, 31–34 (2010).
11. P. F. Develey, T. Pongiluppi, Potential impacts of the changes proposed in the Brazilian Forest Code on birds, Biota Neotropica 10, 43–46 (2010).
12. A. V. L. Freitas, Potential impacts of the proposed Brazilian Forest Act on native butterflie, Biota Neotropica 10, 53–58 (2010).
13. V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca, P. Nunes-Silva, Bees, ecosystem services and the Brazilian Forest Code, Biota Neotropica 10, 59–62 (2010).
14. J. G. Tundisi, T. M. Tundisi, Potencial impacts of changes in the Forest Law in relation to water resources, Biota Neotropica 10, 67–76 (2010).
15. K. T. Ribeiro, L. Freitas, Potential impacts of changes to Brazilian Forest Code in campos rupestres and campos de altitude, Biota 10, 239–246 (2010).
16. O. A. V. Marques, C. Nogueira, M. Martins, R. J. Sawaya, Potential impacts of changes in the Brazilian Forest Code on reptiles, Biota Neotropica 10, 39–42 (2010).
17. M. Galleti et al., Forest legislative changes and their impacts on mammal ecology and diversity in Brazil, Biota Neotropica 10, 47–52 (2010).
18. P. H. S. Brancalion, R. R. Rodrigues, Agricultural land reduction due to the compliance with the current Forest Code: a study case of sugarcane production in the State of São Paulo, Biota Neotropica 10, 63–66 (2010).
19. Datafolha, What Brazilians think about the “new” Forest Law proposal, (Brasília, 2011;
20. P. W. M. Souza-Filho, Costa de manguezais de macromaré da Amazônia: cenários morfológicos, mapeamento e quantificação de áreas usando dados de sensores remotos, Revista Brasileira de Geofísica 23, 427–435 (2005).
21. FAO, The world’s mangroves 1980-2005 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, Rome, 2007), p. 77.
22. G. A. Daldegan, M. Matsumoto, A. Chatwin, in XIII Simpósio Brasileiro de Sensoriamento Remoto, (INPE, Florianópolis, SC, 2007), pp. 851–857.
23. MMA, Panorama da conservação dos ecossistemas costeiros e marinhos no Brasil A. P. L. . Prates, M. A. Gonçalves, M. R. Rosa, Eds. (MMA/SBF/GBA, Brasília DF, ed. 1st, 2010), p. 148.
24. A. G. Zitello, thesis, Duke University (2007).
25. M. S. Copertino, Add coastal vegetation to the climate critical list, Nature 473, 255 (2011).
26. J. Siikamäki, J. N. Sanchirico, S. L. Jardine, Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, 14369–74 (2012).
27. MCT, Segunda comunicação nacional do Brasil à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre mudança do clima (Brasília, 2010;, p. 280.
Info about Presidency of Brazil

Dilma Rousseff

Palácio do Planalto
Praça dos Três Poderes, Palácio do Planalto, Anexo I, Ala B, sala 107
Cep: 70150900

+55  61  3411.1200
+55  61  3411.1201

+55  61  3411.2222


Electronic messages can also be sent at:

Sample Letter:

President of Brasil                                                                                      January 16,2013
Dilma Rousseff
Palácio do Planalto
Praça dos Três Poderes, Palácio do Planalto, Anexo I, Ala B, sala 107
Cep: 70150900

Dear Honorable President Rousseff,

I wish to draw your attention to a dangerous revision to your country’s coastal regulations that are troubling me now. Recent amendments to Brazilian Forest Code (BFC) threaten your country’s mangrove forests and will, if implemented, adversely affect the status of Brazil as the second largest mangrove area in the world. Because of this ill-conceived amendment, I am very concerned for the future of all of Brazil’s coastal wetlands, including the mangroves and their associated inter-tidal wetland areas- the mud flats and salt flats, sea grass beds and coral reefs.

Assessments made prior to the consolidation of shrimp farming industry in Brazil revealed that the country had already lost 50,000 ha between the years of 1985 and 2000 due to diverse causes. Nevertheless, it is estimated that shrimp farming industry alone is responsible for the conversion of another 50,000 ha of the country’s tidal wetland ecosystems into ponds, mainly on salt flats, which will be the last refuge for the mangroves to colonize as the sea level rises as is now occurring at a much moré rapid rate than earlier predicted. Loss of these intertidal areas to expanding shrimp farm development will mean loss of future mangroves that would otherwise have colonized those same sites.

For the sake of combating climate change and restoring your country’s coastal wetlands and wild fisheries, I ask that you please reconsider this troubling amendment and act now to reverse this earlier decision.

For the Mangroves And the Mangrove Communities!

Alfredo Quarto,
Executive Director
Mangrove Action Project

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