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Árvores na floresta

Threats to the Atlantic Forest

In 1500, the Atlantic Forest had an extension of 1.5 million km², but with the first colonizers came the extraction of wood, the removal of the forest for agricultural purposes and the occupation of the territory. At theearly 19th centurythere was a cycle of destruction driven by coffee in the northeast of the state of Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo, in the highlands. At40's, President Vargas drained flooded areas around Guanabara Bay trying to eradicate malaria, yellow fever and other diseases.Back in the 50's, with industrialization opening the way and demand for pastures, more forests were cut down.

With the introduction of the Atlantic Forest law, the government began creating conservation units and strategic planning to secure the forests and ecological services, especially focused on water supply. Some measures came too late for many species of large animals that require large continuous and protected areas of forest for their survival.

Today, only 7% of the original Atlantic Forest area remains, of which only 2% are untouched forests, making this biome one of the most threatened globally.

The Guapiaçu River basin has 58% of its territory in forest cover, between large patches of forest and small fragmented plots. The topography and difficult access certainly helped in the preservation of forests and biodiversity. Thus,the purpose of the RULEis to protect these forest remnants, restore degraded areas, create corridors between forest fragments and the forest, so that future generations can enjoy and take care of this habitat.

INFORMATION

8000

Hectares protegidos

763.000

Mudas plantadas

500

Hectares restaurados

current threats

Recognized for its importance, theUNESCOdesignates the Atlantic Forest as a “Biosphere Reserve”, in six successive phases between 1991 and 2008. The Government approves the Atlantic Forest law in 2006 offering full protection to the forest remnants of the Atlantic Forest. It is worth mentioning that in 2002, the Três Picos State Park was created, joining efforts to preserve the forest gradient of the Guapiaçu river basin. Currently, the UPAM (Environmental Police Unit) makes frequent visits so that threats to the environment and its forest have diminished, but not completely extinguished.

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Despite being currently illegal, deforestation still remains one of the greatest threats to the Atlantic Forest. (© Alan Martin)

Logging

The great felling of the forest of the last century no longer occurs, but with the demand for the construction of houses and farms, clearings in the forest and on the edges of rivers and streams still occur. In rural areas, landowners with forests next to pastures often let cattle into the forest, impoverishing the forests by destroying the understory. Improper pasture management on steep hills allows rain to cause erosion and sometimes landslides, posing a challenge to any vegetation recovery plan.

Urbanization

In a densely populated area, the east of Guanabara Bay and its surroundings suffer  from the pressure caused by urban expansion and consequent change in land cover and use.

One of the main threats to the Guapiaçu river basin today is the increase in small summer houses. Each house built ends up having an effect on the forest due to the construction of roads that give access to the houses and the power grid, for example. The effect can be exacerbated if there is clearing around the houses, or even if bananas and other crops are removed.

With deficient and irregular supervision, areas of forest and abandoned properties taken over by squatters can be quickly deforested and occupied. We have some examples in our municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu, where even buffer areas of the Três Picos State Park, where the legislation provides for the preservation of an area of 10 km around the park, are invaded. Threats by anthropic action seem to gain more strength, needing regular supervision.

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Rampant urbanization is one of the main causes of deforestation and one of the greatest threats to the Atlantic Forest in the Guapiaçu valley. (© Alan Martin)
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Despite being currently illegal, deforestation still remains one of the greatest threats to the Atlantic Forest. (© Alan Martin)

demand for water

Although the water level of the Guapiaçu River has decreased over the last few years as a result of deforestation, dredging and straightening of the riverbed, there is still pressure on the water in this basin. The absence of riparian forest along several stretches of the river together with the illegal extraction of sand are a risk for its future, however the waters of the Guapiaçu River join the Macacu River at the end of the Guapiaçu basin, where there is a catchment that forms the Imunana Laranjal station. This water station is responsible for supplying the populations of important neighboring cities such as Niterói, Itaboraí and São Gonçalo. There are also some water mining companies in the Guapiaçu river basin that generate a lot of jobs, but the population increase and consequent tourism brings an alert to the population concerned about the state of conservation of the environment

Hunting

Traditionally, the hunting of wild animals is a common activity, passed from father to son in rural communities, despite having become illegal in 2006 with the Atlantic Forest law. REGUA would like to put an end to this practice and make the forests a safe place, both for the animals that inhabit them, and for visitors and researchers who frequent the Reserve.

 

In 2004, REGUA hired former hunters and trained them to become rangers in their own working environment. Traces of hunters have been less frequent in recent years, mainly due to the daily patrol work carried out by park rangers and also due to the presence of researchers who carry out their academic work in the forest.

Each property acquired and included in the reserve is regularly inspected to eliminate traps and hunting camps. In the past, people in the community kept birds in cages such as parrots, parakeets, tico – ticos, canaries and bellbirds, but environmental education programs have helped a lot in reducing this practice.

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A caged Cycad Thrush (© Alan Martin)
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