It’s fantastic to hear some good news about the state of the planet’s rainforests. It looks like the destruction of Brazil’s beautiful rainforest has slowed down, and it’s a significant drop. We’re currently looking at around 5000 square Km lost per year, down from a horrible high point in 2004 when 80% more was tragically lost to deforestation.
An international team at the University of Bonn, Germany, has pinned down exactly how effective forest law enforcement has been in the Brazilian Amazon during recent years, and it looks like conservation is winning at long last.
The past decade has seen dramatically reduced levels of deforestation, from a massive 27,772 square Km in 2004 to a much lower but still unacceptable 4,656 square KM in 2012.
How come deforestation levels have fallen? A series of tough financial penalties and frequently-applied controls are responsible for the drop, particularly affecting cattle ranchers, large and small scale farming plus road building and timber harvesting initiatives.
It looks like Forest law enforcement works in a very similar way to road speed limits: the tougher the penalties and the more frequently they’re applied in real life, the greater the deterrent effect.
Law enforcers have been given GPS devices to record the precise locations of violations of forest laws. The location data was used to measure the effectiveness of field-based enforcement across a series of regions to find out if and how deforestation patterns changed after field inspections. The results suggest effective rainforest protection depends on the physical presence of regulators and on the active implementation of penalties on the ground, where they’re felt most keenly.
Forest law enforcement proved most effective in the Mato Grosso and Pará regions of Brazil, where public prosecutors have applied the most legal pressure on offenders, keep blacklists of agricultural offenders and persuade wholesalers to buy products from conservation-minded sources rather than the law-breakers.