FRONTIERS IN FORESTS AND GLOBAL CHANGE - Toward a forest transition across the Brazilian Atlantic Forest biomeDOWNLOAD
The world has entered the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), yet many regions of the world still face environmental degradation. In this context a question arises: under what conditions may a given region shift from a trajectory of environmental degradation to environmental recovery? Answering this question constitutes an important endeavor for the scientific community, policymakers, and organizations leading the planning and implementation of restoration projects. This study examines some of the human-environment conditions underpinning the net gains in natural forest cover in a region that has experienced environmental degradation: the Atlantic Forest biome, Brazil. Using land-use/cover (LULC) data, we assessed the loss and successive gain in forest cover during the 1987–2001 and 2001–2015 periods. Municipality-level statistics on agriculture and economy, together with LULC and biophysical data, were used to develop models for assessing forest cover trajectories. Of the 1,972 municipalities experiencing net forest loss during the 1987–2001 period, 59% shifted their trajectory to a net gain during the 2001–2015 period. This shift, known as forest transition, followed a complex socio-economic pathway characterized by (i) the stagnation of traditional agricultural activities favoring the replacement of pasturelands by mechanized agriculture, and (ii) the emergence of non-agricultural rural activities together with multifunctional landscapes. Furthermore, a trend of decrease in precipitation seems to be associated with land abandonment, thus, favoring the return of natural vegetation. Our findings suggest that forest transition at the biome level is possible if environmental and land regulations take advantage of specific context-dependent situations that foster net forest gains.