Even though progress has been made in conserving Brazil’s landscapes, the country still faces serious threats due to its historical land use. Amazonian forests substantially influence regional and global climates and deforesting this region is both a regional and global driver of climate change due to the high amounts of deforestation and habitat fragmentation that have occurred this region.
Brazil has established an extensive network of protected areas which covers more than 2 million km2(25% of Brazil’s national territory) and is divided almost equally between protected natural areas or conservation units and indigenous land (“Terras Indígenas”). Despite these measures, environmental protection is still a concern as indigenous tribes and Brazilian environmental activists contend with ranchers, illegal loggers, gold and oil prospectors and drug traffickers who continue to illegally clear forests.
Brazil’s 1988 Federal Constitution promotes an “ecologically balanced environment”, as defined in article 225 on the environment, and vests the Brazilian government the responsibility of defending and preserving it. From this constitutional prerogative, Brazil has created the National System of Units of Conservation (Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação – SNUC), through the Federal Law No. 9.985/2000 to devise a plan for sustainable development and land conservation.
Basically, SNUC divides protected areas into two groups: Full protection and sustainable use. Each group contains divers categories of units.
Full protection: Ecological station, Biological Reserve, National Park, Natural Monument, and Wildlife refuge
Sustainable use: Environmental Protection Area, Area of Relevant Ecological Interest, National Forest, Extractive reserve, Fauna Reserve, Sustainable Development Reserve, and Private Reserve of Natural Heritage.
In order to have flexibility on its land use policies, Brazil has created a dynamic system of regulations that promote and require sustainability practices be implemented. These are innovative frameworks as they offer the community the possibility to participate in decision-making and to apply financial mechanisms that make the system viable, as well as encouraging the conservation of natural environments. According to UNESCO’s office in Brasilia, Brazil “has a little over 1,600 federal, state and private Conservation Units (CUs) that protect 16% of the continental territory and 0.5% of the marine area, which corresponds to 1,479,286 square kilometers.”