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What does the surge in Amazon regeneration mean for Brazil?

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Published: July, 2017

New data released by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE) reveal a surprising phenomenon in the Amazon that occurred during Brazil’s deforestation drop in the second half of the 2000s. Tropical secondary vegetation — regrowth that occurs on deforested lands in the Amazon — jumped by more than 70% between 2004 and 2014, rising from 10 million hectares to more than 17 million hectares (Figure 1). The magnitude of this increase means that by 2014 tropical regeneration was underway in nearly a quarter of the total area cleared in the Brazilian Amazon throughout its history.

While regeneration of the Amazon is striking and welcome news, it is premature to draw many firm conclusions about this surge. What is known for certain is that the regrowth is sizable and ongoing, but the true drivers and consequences have yet to be identified and understood. This brief outlines some of the most important questions raised by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI)/PUC-Rio analysts with INPUT.

CPI research draws attention to the need to assess how regeneration is integrated into the New Forest Code and identifying how this “new” vegetation affects the Brazilian emission reduction targets. It provides early guidance for policymakers and stakeholders about how to interpret the news that the deforested Amazon is growing back.

An important disclaimer should be kept in mind while reading this brief. As intriguing as it is to discover that deforested areas of the Amazon have begun to regenerate, this regeneration does not necessarily share biological or ecological equivalence with primary forested areas, nor does it fully make up for the devastation caused to the Brazilian Amazon by years of deforestation.