Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme | WWF
© Zig Koch

Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme

Members of the Jari Expedition (incuding WWF) at the Cachoeira do Desespero waterfall, Tumucumaque National Park. Brazilian Amazon.

A future for protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon

Through its geographic scope and financial objectives, the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) programme redefines large-scale conservation.

 rel= © Zig Koch

The programme, set up by a range of stakeholders that include WWF, aims to create and support a system of well-managed protected areas and sustainable natural resource management reserves over a 10-year period.

Who's on board

ARPA focuses on the Brazilian part of the Amazon biome. This unique partnership comprises key groups ranging from government agencies to NGOs representing civil society and local communities, to major donors. The partnership grew out of a pledge made by the Government of Brazil in 1998 to triple the area of the Amazon under legal protection.

Since the programme’s start in 2003, it has set world-class standards for innovation and cooperation involving multiple sectors of society and has produced extraordinary conservation results ahead of schedule.

By investing in the sound management of biologically important state and federal lands, ARPA is playing a key role in ensuring that future development in the vital Amazon region can take place on a solid environmental footing.

ARPA objectives

  • Establish approximately 283,000 km2 of new protected areas for strict conservation use
  • Transform approximately 125,000 km2 of existing but neglected parks by bringing them up to effective management standards.
  • Establish approximately 89,000 km2 of sustainable use reserves in which local communities will have a stake and will benefit from effective stewardship.
  • Set up a long-term Protected Areas Trust Fund to ensure the financial viability and integrity of the park system in perpetuity. The funding target is US$ 220 million.

The national parks and sustainable use reserves that are established through ARPA serve a number of critical functions by:
  • securing protection of important habitats, ecosystems, and biological diversity;
  • acting as barriers to deforestation and forest fire;
  • stabilizing land tenure and mitigating land ownership conflicts prevalent in the region;
  • storing vast quantities of carbon and keeping it locked up and out of the atmosphere;
  • maintaining sufficient tree cover to preserve hydrological and rainfall patterns whose disruption by forest clearing holds dire consequences in Brazil and beyond;
  • providing natural resource management alternatives to local communities; and
  • putting effective land-use planning into practice at the large-scale of the Amazon.

How it began

ARPA’s scientific design is based on the results of a 2-year planning process involving hundreds of experts, including biologists, anthropologists, economists and representatives of indigenous communities among others.

This process resulted in the identification of a set of priority zones strung throughout the Amazon in which specific new parks and reserves would be ideally situated. An independent panel of scientific experts guides the park selection process to ensure that sound science remains a hallmark of the programme.

How it operates

IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, coordinates the process of establishing the protected areas - from their identification and legal designation to management plan preparation, infrastructure development and staffing.

IBAMA works in conjunction with state and municipal authorities and builds partnerships with local communities to ensure that park plans effectively integrate input from local residents. A project steering committee composed of public sector and civil society representatives, including WWF, oversees project implementation.

How it is financed

Financial oversight rests with the World Bank while the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO) serves as ARPA’s financial manager. This arrangement combines the best elements of public and private sector know-how, increasing project efficiency and transparency.

Once implemented, protected areas under ARPA must demonstrate compliance in meeting rigorous management standards. Only then are they eligible to draw on the programme’s permanent Protected Areas Trust Fund.

This fund was established in 2004 thanks to a US$ 500,000 donation from WWF-Brazil, raised with the Ford Foundation. This is a permanent capital fund for the long-term financing of activities in protected areas that are supported by ARPA.

The fund, operated and administered as an endowment, provides the financial resources needed to cover the recurrent costs of operating the protected areas and complements the government’s obligation to pay for the park system’s core staffing costs.

ARPA has also received significant funding through the World Bank, approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and counterpart funding from the Brazilian government. Other contributors include WWF (made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and the German Development Bank, KfW.


ARPA has already begun to show results, including the declaration of Tumucumaque Mountains National Park, announced in 2002. The park's borders were strategically designed to protect its high biodiversity and were conceived by WWF-Brazil and IBAMA, under the guidance of Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment.

At 38,800 km2, the Park is equivalent in size to Switzerland. It is the world's largest tropical forest national park and the second largest national park overall. Threatened species there include jaguars, macaws and harpy eagles, animals that all require large areas of rainforest for their survival.

With ARPA support, by July 2006 a total of 21 million ha of new protected areas had been created in the Amazon, more than doubling the area under protection prior to the programme's initiation.