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Copyright © 2002 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance.

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Magnusson, W. E. 2002. Priorities for priorities: where to locate the first FLONAs? Conservation Ecology 6(2): r7. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/resp7/

Response to Veríssimo et al. 2000. "Priority areas for establishing national forests in the Brazilian Amazon"

Priorities for Priorities: Where to Locate the First FLONAs?

William E. Magnusson

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)

Veríssimo et al. (2002) present a strong case for creating national forests or Florestas Nacionais (FLONAs) to cover much of the Amazon. I agree with most of their arguments. However, their assessment is only the first step toward a more detailed land-use planning by the Brazilian federal government. More studies will have to be carried out at the local scale before reserves are established. The Brazilian National System of Conservation Units or Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação (SNUC) permits many forms of reserves that, in principle, allow forestry activities, including Sustainable Development Reserves, Extractive Reserves, and Environmental Protection Areas. Even if the whole 713,000 km2 of potential FLONAs cannot be implemented, much of it is likely to be suitable for other types of reserves. The reserves listed above also allow for the maintenance of human populations within the area they encompass. It may be possible to include forestry in more areas if these types of reserve are included in land-use planning, although these areas might not always support intensive large-scale industrial forestry.

The scale of the analysis presented by Veríssimo et al. (2002) is too coarse to allow evaluation of current human occupation, despite the use of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data. Rather than starting with potential areas for FLONAs that are designated as high priority for conservation, I would start with those areas facing the greatest short-term potential threats. Laurance et al. (2002) presented a best-case scenario that involved the loss of a great part of the Amazonian forests, and many follow-up studies are being undertaken to evaluate the predictive power of their model. Ferreira (2001) presented a formula for locating conservation reserves away from the major development axes that, like the Laurance et al. (2002) model, virtually abandons conservation in areas with infrastructure such as paved roads. Veríssimo et al. (2002) clearly show that paved roads may be a plus for some kinds of reserve, and reserves are effective conservation tools, even when they are understaffed and underfinanced (Bruner et al. 2001).

Land-use planning has to be undertaken on a scale that is acceptable to the local people and planning has to take into account the probable management units (Albernaz 2001). I have suggested that land-use planning for conservation should be based on stream catchments (Magnusson 2001, Pringle 2001). Catchments come in an infinite variety of sizes. However, I suggest that catchments of about 1,000,000 ha provide reasonable management units for federal planning in the Amazon. This would give about 500 potential management units for planning within the Brazilian Legal Amazon. State and municipal planning would obviously have to be based on smaller catchments.

Rather than starting in the least vulnerable areas, I would map the 1,000,000-ha catchments that overlap or are contiguous with the proposed development axes within the Amazon. Each of these, perhaps in concert with its neighbors, is a potential management unit. All of them are potential areas for some form of conservation unit countenanced under the SNUC conservation area legislation. The Laurance et al. (2002) model divided opinion in Brazil and resulted in conflict between conservationsists and government planners, who have an obligation to provide decent transport, communication, health, and education services to all Brazilians, including the tens of millions who live in the Amazon. Rather than a political standoff, this can be converted into a win-win situation. Nepstad et al. (2002) have shown that reserves, including FLONAs, can be used at a local level to protect forests along the Santarém-Cuiabá Highway. If the federal government, in collaboration with the States and municipalities, implements a reserve system to buffer the national development axes before implementing the proposed developments, plans such as Avança Brasil will be seen as beneficial by conservationists and developers alike. FLONAs are an essential, but not unique, part of any such plan to protect the most threatened areas. As resources and demand increase, the development axes, and reserves, can be extended into other regions.

Published: August 29, 2002


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Many of the ideas reported here grew out of discusions with Ana Albernaz and Leandro Ferreira.


Albernaz, A. L. K. M. 2001. Zoneamento da região de Alter do Chão, Pará: um exercício de planejamento para uma unidade de conservação de uso direto. Dissertation. Universidade do Amazonas/Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brazil.

Bruner, A. G., R. E. Gullison, R. E. Price, and G. A. B. da Fonseca. 2001. Effectiveness of parks in protecting tropical biodiversity. Science 291:125-128.

Ferreira, L. V.2001. A distribuição das unidades de conservação no Brasil e a identificação de áreas prioritárias para a conservação da biodiversidade nas ecorregiões do bioma Amazônia.Dissertation. Universidade do Amazonas/Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brazil.

Laurance, W. F., M. A. Cochrane, S. Bergen, P. M. Fearnside, P. Delamônica, C. Barber, S. d'Angelo, and T. Fernandes. 2001. The future of the Brazilian Amazon: development trends and deforestation. Science 291:438-439.

Magnusson, W. E. 2001. Catchments as basic units of management in conservation biology courses. Conservation Biology 15:1464-1465.

Nepstad, D., D. McGrath, A. Alencar, A. C. Barros, G. Carvalho, M. Santill, and M. del C. V. Diaz. 2002. Frontier governance in Amazonia. Science 295:629-630.

Pringle, C. M. 2001. Hydrological connectivity and the management of biological reserves: a global perspective. Ecological Applications 11:981-999.

Veríssimo, A., M. A. Cochrane, C. Souza, and R. Salomão. 2002. Priority areas for establishing national forests in the Brazilian Amazon. Conservation Ecology 6(1):4. Available online at: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art4.

Address of Correspondent:
William E. Magnusson
Coordenação de Pesquisas em Ecologia
CP 478
69011-970 Manaus AM
Phone: 55 92 6431834
Fax: 55 92 6423309

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