Can tree farms save the forests of Brazil?

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Can tree farms save the forests of Brazil?


MATO GROSSO DO SUL, Brazil — On a blistering day in late August, Will Turner gazed across a dusty road, red as Mars, into the fringe of a dense forest,  its canopy alive with the hum of insects and chattering birds. This forest in southern Brazil is an oasis,  a remnant of a nearly forgotten ecosystem in a region now dominated by degraded cattle pastures.


Behind him, on the opposite side of the road, lay something entirely different,  a sea of eucalyptus, recently planted and already four feet tall. These trees, remarkable in their uniformity, are clones. Decades of tinkering have resulted in an intensively managed crop that supplies the world with an essential and sustainable source of wood.

QUESTIONS: Read the questions below and by speaking to your teacher answer the questions using complete sentences.

1. How do you think human activities contribute to climate change, and what actions can we take to minimize our impact?
2. In your opinion, what are the most significant effects of climate change on our planet, and why is it crucial to address this issue?
3. Can you discuss some international efforts or treaties that aim to combat climate change, and how successful have they been so far?


But nature has made its choice perfectly clear: Among the eucalyptus there are no insect chirps or bird songs,  only silence. Yet the fate of these two distinct landscapes, the forest and the tree farm, are intertwined. What was an enormous tract of degraded pastureland just a few months ago is being rapidly transformed into tree farms and more than 2,000 hectares of newly restored natural forest.


This is “Project Alpha.” Located in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, it aims to protect and restore nature to an area roughly twice the size of Manhattan — and find new ways to pay for it. Designed by BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group (TIG) with help from Conservation International, the project has brought together two groups often seen as natural adversaries: conservationists and timber operators.


“It’s easy to form a snap judgment about planting non-native plantations anywhere outside their range, like eucalyptus from Australia,” said Turner, a scientist at Conservation International. “But snap judgment isn’t how we’re going to solve climate change and save biodiversity. We need to test what really works. This is a very serious commitment to improve the way we manage nature within private properties.”


And this property is just the beginning. Over the next five years, TIG plans to secure US$ 1 billion from investors to plant, conserve and restore nearly 275,000 hectares (741,000 acres) of degraded land in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile. In doing so, they plan to capture some 32 million metric tons of climate-warming carbon over a 15-year period, the equivalent of taking 470,000 cars off the road. 


Half of the land acquired by TIG will be protected or restored back to its natural state and set aside for conservation, while the other half will be planted with commercial species, like eucalyptus. Not merely a trade-off, where commercial activities fund conservation, the plan represents a unified system where restoring nature provides added value to investors through the sale of carbon credits, while sustainably certified timber revenue helps fund ongoing monitoring and protection of the native forest.


“We’re standing on the line balancing economic production and environmental protection,” Turner said, gesturing down the middle of the road. “It’s a balancing act that could lead to positive outcomes for people and nature in this region,  if we can get it right.”

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