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Evidence-based policy is increasingly important, more so in a post-truth environment. Despite past successes, Brazil still faces environmental and social challenges, including degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and poverty and inequality, among others. The political shift brought by the recent national elections has generated a climate of uncertainty particularly about the future of environmental policies.
This Focus brings together research and opinion pieces relevant to ongoing policy debates around environmental and sustainability policies in Brazil. In addition to the pieces published in this issue, the collection gathers selected articles published across Nature Research journals.
The country achieved impressive environmental and sustainability successes in the past. Now more than ever, scientists should focus on providing evidence to support policy that helps Brazil to continue doing so.
The conservation movement has lost its critical edge by befriending agribusiness. With deforestation on the rise and a continuous roll-back of environmental protection, it is time to rethink this strategy.
Marinez Scherer is an expert in integrated coastal management and executive secretary of the Brazilian Sea Forum. Alberto Lindner is an expert in marine ecology and conservation. Both are at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil, and here discuss recent trends in marine and coastal science and policy in Brazil.
An ecological evaluation of the largest community-based conservation initiative along the Amazon river also shows significant benefits for non-targeted species. This 40-year-old project targets the giant South American turtle.
This study spatially maps the economic value of some major ecosystem services provided by the Brazilian Amazon. It also estimates changes in these values under scenarios of degradation and low-impact logging.
A provision of the Forest Act in Brazil could legalize deforestation of an additional 6.5–15 million ha of private lands, under a plausible scenario of protected public land reaching 65% in some states.
Recently publicized killings of environmental defenders are the latest iteration of a long and tragic history of violent conflict over access to land and resources. To bring about effective change, we must first understand the drivers and conditions that lead to violence in the sphere of environmental and land conflict.
Deforestation in Amazonia has previously been linked to thermally driven precipitation increases. Satellite observations and model simulations now suggest a shift toward a dynamically driven hydroclimate, with enhanced rainfall seen downwind of deforested areas.
Tree transpiration in the Amazon enhances downwind rainfall. Research now shows that approximately one-third of Amazon rainfall originates within its own basin, with the southern half of the basin contributing most to this effect.
Remote sensing and in situ observations show that non-radiative mechanisms dominate the local climatic response to land cover and land management changes in most regions of the globe for 8 of 9 common land cover and management perturbations.
Industrial mining contributes to deforestation in the Amazon, and the extent of effect could occur beyond areas of land explicitly permitted for mining. Here, Sonter et al. show that deforestation in 70-km buffer zones around mines has led to an estimated 9% of Brazilian Amazon deforestation since 2005.
Emerging research suggests ancient Amazonians employed a range of cultivation practices to develop diversified diets, rich in both wild and domesticated plant and animal resources. Southwestern Amazonia is now understood as a major centre of plant domestication.
Political bargaining has the potential to reverse Brazil’s deforestation control efforts. Integrated assessment modelling shows that weaker environmental governance threatens the country’s ability to achieve emissions consistent with a 2 °C goal.
Forests are a key component of the Paris Agreement, providing about a quarter of planned emission reductions. Realizing this ambition, however, requires greater confidence in forest estimates, presenting a challenge and an opportunity for science.
Biodiversity is positively associated with carbon density in highly disturbed tropical forests, but this relationship breaks down in relatively undisturbed areas. Consequently, carbon conservation schemes can fail to protect the most ecologically valuable forests.
Deforestation carbon emissions from the Brazilian Amazon have declined steeply, but how much drought-induced forest fire emissions add to this process is still unclear. Here the authors show that gross emissions from forest fires are more than half as great as those from deforestation during drought years.
Forests of the Amazon Basin have experienced frequent and severe droughts in recent years with significant impacts on their carbon cycling. Here, using satellite LiDAR samples from 2003 to 2008, the authors show the long-term legacy of these droughts with persistent loss of carbon stocks after the 2005 drought.
Biofuels have lower CO2 emissions than fossil fuels, but competing land demands can limit expansion of production. This study shows Brazilian sugarcane ethanol could displace up to 13% of global crude oil consumption by 2045 whilst balancing forest conservation and future land demand for food.
Biofuel prices depend on related commodities—such as corn, sugar cane and palm oil—but their connection to other non-feedstock commodities is less well explored. Filip et al. analyse a data set of 33 commodities and assets and examine their relationships to biofuels in Brazil, the US and Europe.
Fires are used to clear tropical forests. Satellite measurements and simulations show that reductions in deforestation and associated fires in Brazil have reduced emissions of particulate matter, preventing between 400 and 1,700 deaths annually.
Ethanol-based vehicles are thought to generate less pollution than gasoline-based vehicles. An analysis of pollutant concentrations in the subtropical megacity of São Paulo, Brazil, reveals that levels of ozone pollution fell, but levels of nitric oxide and carbon monoxide rose, during periods of prevailing gasoline use relative to ethanol use.