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Image: CC BY SA 3.0/Carlos Reyes

Protecting the Pau Brasil

Ranty Islam
February 19, 2015

The rare Pau brasil tree on Brazil's east coast is dying out. Its population can only be boosted with the help of local communities who have to first be convinced that protecting the environment pays off for them too.


Brazil: The Pau Brasil National Park

Project goal: The PARNA Pau Brasil aims to protect and promote ecosystems and biodiversity as well as ecosystem services of the national park. It helps develop leisure activities and facilitates research and environment training.
Size: More than 630 tree- and animal species are found on an an area measuring more than 19,000 hectares
Investment: Around 14 million Euros within the framework of the German government's International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Biological diversity: The Mata Atlantica, one of the world's five most significant biodiversity hotspots, is highly endangered. Only about nine percent of the original forest cover survives today. Still, it offers a refuge for more than ten Brazilian animal species that are on the brink of extinction. They include insects, fish, larger mammals and birds such as the Harpyie, South America's largest bird of prey

The region along Brazil's eastern coast offers a study in contrasts. Home to 120 million residents, this is where the heart of the Brazilian economy beats. At the same time, it's also where one of the world's five most important biodiversity hotspots is located, or at least what remains of the coastal rainforest Mata Atlantica. Caught between environmental concerns and unbridled economic growth, preserving the last remaining eight percent of the forest remains a huge challenge. The Pau Brasil National Park belongs to these last remnants of the forest that are worth protecting. The park boasts huge biodiversity. Almost 500 different tree species are found on a single hectare of forest. One of them is the rare Pau brasil tree. For centuries, its wood has been used to extract a pigment, a fact that's almost led to the tree's extinction. The last trees are now being protected in the national park and young saplings are planted. One thing is for sure – the forest can only be protected with the help of local communities. Environmental protection often provides a big hurdle for them as they can no longer fully cultivate their small pieces of land for farming purposes. But as compensation, they are now being paid for their environmental services such as protecting forest areas or drinking water sources.

A film by Roberto Manhaes Reis

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