Conflicts and opportunities for commercial tree plantation expansion and biodiversity restoration across Brazil

Global Change Biology

By Cerullo, G., Worthington, T., Brancalion, P., Brandão, J., d’Albertas, F. et al. in articles

January 1, 2024


January 1, 2024


12:00 AM

Substantial global restoration commitments are occurring alongside a rapid expansion in land-hungry tropical commodities, including to supply increasing demand for wood products. Future commercial tree plantations may deliver high timber yields, shrinking the footprint of production forestry, but there is an as-yet unquantified risk that plantations may expand into priority restoration areas, with marked environmental costs. Focusing on Brazil—a country of exceptional restoration importance and one of the largest tropical timber producers—we use random forest models and information on the economic, social, and spatial drivers of historic commercial tree plantation expansion to estimate and map the probability of future monoculture tree plantation expansion between 2020 and 2030. We then evaluate potential plantation-restoration conflicts and opportunities at national and biome-scales and under different future production and restoration pathways. Our simulations show that of 2.8 Mha of future plantation expansion (equivalent to plantation expansion 2010–2020), 78,000 ha (3%) is forecast to occur in the top 1% of restoration priority areas for terrestrial vertebrates, with 547,500 ha (20%) and 1,300,000 ha (46%) in the top 10% and 30% of priority areas, respectively. Just 459,000 ha (16%) of expansion is forecast within low-restoration areas (bottom 30% restoration priorities), and the first 1 Mha of plantation expansion is likely to have disproportionate impacts, with potential restoration-plantation overlap starkest in the Atlantic Forest but prominent in the Pampas and Cerrado as well. Our findings suggest that robust, coherent land-use policies must be deployed to ensure that significant trade-offs between restoration and production objectives are navigated, and that commodity expansion does not undermine the most tractable conservation gains under emerging global restoration agendas. They also highlight the potentially significant role an engaged forestry sector could play in improving biodiversity outcomes in restoration projects in Brazil, and presumably elsewhere.

Posted on:
January 1, 2024
2 minute read, 291 words
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