Jose A. Ferraz de Lima

The Integrated Effort of the Brazilian Government Towards Areas under Federal, State and Private Protection

(Excerpts from the full paper presented in the "uncorrected, advance proof" of The Pantanal of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, Hudson MacArthur Publishers, copyright 2000 by Waterland Research Institute.)

The federally protected area in the Brazilian Pantanal is limited to the Pantanal National Park -- "Parque Nacional do Pantanal Matogrossense"-- and the small Taiamã Ecological Station. Both areas are located along the Paraguay River. Pantanal National Park (approximately 140,000 hectares) is an area where floodplain waters return to the main channels of the Paraguay and Cuiabá/São Lourenço rivers. Taiamã Ecological Station (11,200 hectares) is located along the Paraguay River in the northern Pantanal. Both of these protected areas are supervised by the federal agency, IBAMA. 


With an area of about 1,400 km2, Pantanal National Park occupies only about one percent of the Brazilian Pantanal. In terms of preservation of the Pantanal’s biodiversity, this small national park is relatively insignificant. Furthermore, the value of both of the above-mentioned reserves as refuges for terrestrial animals has been questioned since these lands are nearly completely inundated during periods of high water. It is thus necessary to have additional government strategies for the conservation of the Pantanal -- strategies involving private efforts toward preservation. Furthermore, conservation efforts depend upon the development of integrated actions and extensive cooperation between governments and society in general. For example, one cannot separate the Pantanal of Brazil from that of Bolivia and Paraguay; cooperation among these nations is of utmost importance. 


Pantanal National Park was created via government land purchases. However, it is an area with significant flooding, and regrettably it represents only a limited portion of the Pantanal and its diverse landscapes. From a conservation standpoint, therefore, it is quite significant that Ecotrópica has gained ownership of lands around the National Park, thereby complementing this park in its preservation efforts. In fact, the Ecotrópica areas also represent diverse landscapes not represented in the park itself. 


When on refers to the Pantanal, we are of course addressing areas that are permanently flooded, as well as areas that are flooded seasonally, rivers, and so forth. The water cycle of the Pantanal is critically important. In this part of the world, one does not talk about winter, summer, spring or fall. One talks of the dry season and the rainy season, with the rainy season occurring from about October to April, and the dry season from May or April to October. During the dry season, the rivers remain in their channels, and terrestrial animals can be found on the river margins. When the rainy season commences, the rivers flood, completing a cyclical water cycle that gives the region its unique character. Should this cycle be altered, the Pantanal as we know it would be lost. 

For example, in the Manso River, a very important tributary of the Cuiabá River, a dam-type power plant is being constructed . Constructing such a dam could impact the water cycle, as well as the chemical composition of those waters. Associated with this power plant will be a large reservoir of nearly 40,000 hectares on the upstream side of the plant. It is notable that this river provides an estimated 60% of the water that flows into the Cuiabá River. Thus, the impact of this power plant can be substantial, affecting plants, fish, and so forth. 


The Pantanal’s characteristic flood-and-drought cycle is particularly critical to many fish species, whose migration habits are tied to these changes. When there is flooding, the fish move laterally into the flooded areas. At that time there is abundant food, and it is a common time for breeding. When there is drought, the fish return to the riverbed. Furthermore, 80% of the fish in the Pantanal migrate, so changes in the water cycle can be most critical. 


The Pantanal is not a homogeneous environment. There are many diverse ecoregions that can be found there. For this reason, preservation efforts require the broad protection of different areas. Given the limited federal and state government area protected, it is necessary to have areas of private protection as well. 

We can refer to areas under government protection by the terms “direct units” and “indirect units”of conservation. Indirect-use conservation units are those which are restricted totally with respect to any exploitation or use of the natural resources, allowing only indirect use of the benefits of these lands. These properties are classified according to units of integral protection. These include National Parks (PARNA), Biological Reservations (REBIO) Ecological Reservations (RESEC), Ecological Stations (ESEC) and Areas of Important Ecological Interest (ARIES). 

Units of conservation of direct use are those in which direct use of the natural resources is allowed, but in a planned and regulated manner. These are classified around units of maintainable use and include Areas for Environmental Preservation (APA), National Forest (FLONA) and Reserves for Exploration (REFLEX). 

In an effort to aid conservation efforts, the Brazilian government has been deploying a particular strategy aimed at private landowners. This program involves the establishment of private reserves called RPPN -"Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural," or Private Reserves of Natural Heritage. That type of reserve was created by Federal Ordinance No. 98.914, of January 31, 1990, and strong expansion of this concept was tried after 1992. Federal Ordinance No. 1922, of June 5, 1996 established rules for the recognition of RPPN. 


One of the better experiences with RPPN involves Ecotrópica Foundation. Ecotrópica was involved in acquiring three private ranches in the Pantanal area surrounding Pantanal National Park: Dorochê Ranch(26,518 hectares), Acurizal Farm(13,200 hectares) and Penha Farm (13,100 hectares). Each of these were then made part of the RPPN program. Also in the Pantanal area, Trade Social Service (SESC) maintains two private reserves which are part of the RPPN program. Both of these are in “Ecological Ranch SESC Pantanal,” in an area directed influenced by the Cuiabá River. One of these properties occupies 49,485.72 hectares and the other extends 38,385.72 hectares. 


There is a need to establish additional RPPNs in the Pantanal area, in order to increase the protection of the different habitats of this ecosystem. Property owners whose lands meet certain requirements can request from the government to have their properties recognized as such reserves. In order to be recognized as an RPPN, the property either needs to be significant in terms of protection of biological biodiversity, contain landscapes of great beauty, or offer conditions that justify environmental recovery actions, capable of advancing the conservation of fragile, threatened ecosystems. The awarding of RPPN status restricts the use of the lands but also confers certain advantages. The landowners are offered tax breaks, they will receive assistance in the management of their lands and they will have support in the protection of their lands, such as against fires. These are some of motivations the government is employing in order to make more attractive the placing of lands into private preserves. 

Currently, there are some 210,900 hectares in the area of influence of the Pantanal that are being protected by the Federal Government-IBAMA (Figure 1). There are an additional 162,785.94 hectares in the RPPN (private property) program (Figure 2). These numbers may seem to be large, but they are in fact small relative to the size of the Pantanal. There is certainly not enough protected land within the Pantanal area. In order to implement an overall, integrated management program, we need to establish greater cooperation between the government organizations and the private organizations, the research organizations and with society in general. Furthermore, the Pantanal is not an isolated region but is impacted from neighboring areas, requiring a comprehensive perspective to address the Pantanal’s needs. It is not enough to look at the size of the protected area inside the Pantanal and to work to increase this area, without considering the greater basin.