By Alexsandro Vanin and Fernanda Pereira*
The destruction of the Amazon continues at a strong pace. According to data from the Deforestation Alert System (SAD) of the Institute for Man and the Environment of the Amazon (Imazon), after a record loss of native forest in April (1,197 km², 54% more than that registered in the same month in 2021), another 1,125 km² were devastated in May – 31% more than in the same month in the previous year. As a result, the accumulated result for the first five months of 2022 (3,360 km²) is the highest recorded for the period since 2008, when Imazon began monitoring the forest using satellite images.
The number is worrisome, as in addition to being at the beginning of the dry season in the Amazon, which runs from May to October, it is an election year, when there is usually an increase in deforestation. The prediction of the artificial intelligence platform PrevisIA is that around 15,400 km² will be deforested in 2022, the largest area of forest cut down in the last 16 years. But what is the solution to curb the devastation of the Amazon rainforest and prevent such a scenario from taking place?
The answer to the question is not simple, as the problem is complex. Deforestation is not only linked to the illegal exploitation and trade of wood: the activities of land grabbers and prospectors, illegal hunters and fishermen and even legal activities, such as the expansion of agriculture and livestock, for example, contribute to the growing destruction in the Amazon – not to mention the influence of international drug and arms trafficking in the region, recently evidenced by the murder of indigenist Bruno Pereira and journalist Dominic Phillips. Boycotting Amazonian wood, therefore, is an innocuous measure that could still lead to the adoption of non-renewable and less sustainable raw materials, the purchase of wood from countries with even less secure control systems, and opening up space for the advancement of activities that are even more damaging to the ecosystem.
A solutions guide
A solution requires action on several fronts, based on an economic and social development model for the Amazon aligned with forest conservation. It ranges from adopting low-impact practices in agriculture to encouraging bioeconomy and Nature-Based Services (SbN) businesses, including strengthening traditional communities and native peoples in extractive value chains and other activities. It combines entrepreneurship, fair trade, scientific knowledge, traditional wisdom, innovation and the application of technologies to enhance biodiversity. It requires control and supervision.
In the case of wood, for example, correctly applied forest management guarantees the sustainable management of resources, contributing to the conservation of the ecosystem and the preservation of biodiversity. Modern techniques make it possible to extract wood with a minimum of negative impact, and voluntary certifications ensure the adoption of good socio-environmental practices. In addition, the presence of workers in the forest helps to inhibit its invasion. Supporting and encouraging responsible private sector engagement through public forest concessions – where more than half of deforestation in 2021 took place – is a path that must be followed in conjunction with strengthening control and oversight processes.
It is the flaws in forest monitoring and control services, added to weaknesses in the traceability and due diligence systems, that allow the introduction of part of the wood of illegal origin in the market. In addition to damage to the environment, this brings economic losses to the sector due to unfair competition and image degradation. To bring more security and credibility to the market, some innovations in control methods were presented to the public at Carrefour International du Bois 2022, the largest international fair in the wood sector, held in Nantes, France, in early June.
In common, the solutions are based on techniques of direct analysis of the wood, and not just on the analysis of documents. Some aim to identify the species, such as wood anatomy analyzes or the use of near-infrared wave frequencies, but do not indicate the origin. Others help to determine the origin but not the species, in the case of isotope analysis, and with limited spatial resolution, given that it depends on the gradient generated by the environment itself – which would not prevent the mixing of wood from very close areas. The individual genetic profiling system (DNA profiling) allows proof of the origin of the wood from its primary source – the tree.
This solution is Brazilian and has been improved through a partnership between the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development, through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, and the consortium formed by the companies GenomaA Biotech, BRFLOR and Blue Timber Florestal. Similar to forensic analyzes and paternity tests in humans, for example, each tree is treated as an individual, and has its data and genetic profile associated with a source information management system. In other words, the individual genetic profile becomes an additional layer of information, increasing the security of origin and allowing verification at any point in the solid wood chain.
The topic will also be discussed at the 9th Brazilian Forestry Congress, which takes place from July 12 to 15, 2022. “Systems and solutions for monitoring the use of forest products” is one of the technical sessions at the event promoted by the Brazilian Society of Forestry Engineers (SBEF ) and by the Brazilian Society of Silviculture (SBS), which seeks to discuss the sustainable use and conservation of forests with social and economic development.
* Alexsandro Vanin is Communications Leader at TMNH Holding and Fernanda Pereira is Research and Development Leader at GenomaA Biotech