Reforestation Efforts in the Amazon Aims To Plant 73 Million Trees

There have been efforts to curb the effects of deforestation for decades, however a new major project is in the works, and it’s shaping up to be historical.

What is this monumental task? A new project led by Conservation International will become the largest tropical reforestation plan to ever have existed. Over the next six years about 73 million trees will be planted in what is nicknamed the “arc of deforestation” that spans across the Brazilian states of Acre, Pará, Rondônia, the Amazonas and more. In the end the goal is to restore 70,000+ acres, about the size of over 30 thousand soccer fields, which have been cleared for pastureland.

Stacked logs from a recently cleared forest. Moment captured by Russell A. Mittermeier of Conservation International.

Studies by National Geographic show that about 20% of the Amazon has already been cut down or destroyed. Scientist fear that another 20% of the Brazilian Rainforest may be lost over the next few decades. Instead of following the laborious and resource intensive trend set by countries such as India where volunteers would plant saplings, the organizers of this project are trying something a little different. Muvuca.

But what is muvuca? Developed in Brazil not too long ago, it’s a new planting technique. Conservation International’s vice president and ground lead of the Brazil program Rodrigo Medeiros stated “In Portuguese, it means a lot of people in a very small place.”

Headshot of vice president of Conservation International Rodrigo Medeiros, PhD.

The idea behind muvuca is that seeds from over 200 different native species are strategically spread over every square meter of the mismanaged land. Seeds are purchased from and provided by the Xingu Seed Network, made up of hundreds of indigenous seed collectors. The Xingue Seed Network has also acted as a native seed supply for more than 30 other organizations since 2007.

Despite being planted in rich soil, it’s obvious that only some seeds will survive. However, this natural selection is key to the muvuca strategy. The seeds that are planted begin to compete for nutrients and sunlight, and eventually the strongest become full grown trees. The Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International conducted a study back in 2014 over the success of muvuca. They found that more than 90% of trees planted germinate, and become extremely resilient, able to survive drought conditions for up to six months.

Specimen of ‘Pau mulato’ located in the Amazon floodplain forest Ilha das Cinzas. Image courtesy of Daniel Kieling/Conservation International.

In a public statement Medeiros compliments muvuca. “With plant-by-plant reforestation techniques, you get a typical density of about 160 plants per hectare” He continues, saying “With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare, and after about ten years you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare.” He finishes his praise with “It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.”

Photo from the floor of the Amazon Rainforest. Scene captured by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma of Fauna Forever.

While Conservation International and other organizations have formed a coalition to provide strong leadership, the real power actually resides in the small family farmers and indigenous communities that work the project. There may be as many as 2,000 locals per hectare, who actively work together in order to reforest the land. Pay is given out evenly among participants, and a family can earn about $700 for each hectare that is restored to its former forested glory.

So far a few million trees have already been planted. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved, according to Medeiros. The coalition gets labor at a fair price and indigenous communities may maintain their livelihoods while being recognized as the rightful owners of the rainforest lands. In other goods news we currently have more trees/vegetation now in 2017 than we did back in 2003. This monumental project will not only benefit the planet but also plays a huge role for Brazil as the nation moves towards its goals set in the Paris Agreement.

Works cited:,,

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