The Atlantic Rain Forest and its associated ecosystems are reduced to about 8.0% of their original area. It is obviously going through a process of great degradation.
These are very fundamental changes; we can currently instance losses of genetic variation in the original populations of economically significant species such as Pau Brasil (Caesalpinia echinata Lam.) and Jacaranda-da-Bahia (Dalbergia nigra (Vell.) ex. Benth).
The major problem is how to reconcile the cities' accelerated growth, extensive farming and cattle-breeding and other economic development, with the conservation of this complex ecosystem. The solution is to join together and begin immediate projects to recover the losses.
After a thorough inventory of conservation efforts in the Atlantic Forest, carried out by major institutes, companies, universities and researchers, we have managed to estimate of what has been done to learn about and study biological processes, propagate various species and use them rationally, as a basis for working towards their preservation.
Engaged in this learning process are basic research institutes devoted to producing floras, which are the foundation of any conservationist action. To supplement such work in the Atlantic Forest, some public and private companies are playing an important part in species propagation and use (the restoration of degraded areas around dams and mines) and collaborating with the local governments and farmers for the benefit of the community.
Significant activities have been developed in academic circles, universities and technical schools. These will provide some information for the management of such a devastated ecosystem.
Although only just beginning, formal actions by city governments and state secretariats are here to stay and should be encouraged.
Relevant actions in the three Brazilian regions containing parts of the Atlantic Forest may be highlighted:
A technical cooperation agreement links the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden, the Rio de Janeiro City Government and Petrobrás S.A. in a programme ranging from seed harvesting and seedling production, to the resulting planting of seedlings in degraded areas on the Rio de Janeiro hillsides and the Duque de Caxias oil refinery.
Another undertaking that deserves mention is the Sao Paulo Power Company's experimental planting around Sao Paulo hydro-electric dams. Using strains occurring in the Atlantic Forest, the programme includes seed harvesting and large-scale seedling production for implanting of seedlings in degraded riparian areas.
In this region, the propagation of Atlantic Forest species is being developed by EMBRAPA through the National Centre of Forest Research, by the Federal University of Paraná, the Federal University of Santa Catarina, and the Department of Agriculture of the State of Rio Grande do Sul through the Ataliba Paes Institute and its experimental stations. The use of Atlantic Forest species for urban treeplanting and experimental planting for seed production is the main goal of these institutions.
After exhaustive data gathering, it has been established that, although useful, these efforts are still not enough to stop the genetic erosion of these populations and are only beginning to curb accelerated desertification processes.
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