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Environmental problems in Brazil

Aerial shot of the Amazon showing forest fire, Acre State, Brazil.
The major threat for these vast – but not infinite – natural areas is the often destructive expansion of a vegetable, more precisely a bean: soy.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), soy was Brazil’s main agricultural crop by harvested area in 2004, with more than 21 million ha under cultivation.

Another crop of concern is cocoa, which has been blamed for widespread deforestation in Brazil. During the cocoa economic boom of the 1970s,  expansion of this crop was a leading cause of the decline of Brazil’s endangered Atlantic Forest ecosystem, of which only about 10% persists - barely.

The cattle problem
The Cerrado, an extensive woodland savanna ecosystem in Brazil, is threatened by cattle ranching. The expansion of cattle ranching is closely linked to the increased soy cultivation - which poses serious concerns about the impact of this industry on sensitive ecosystems.

There are also concerns about the expansion of chicken and pork production moving into the Cerrado.1
The paper pulp problem
In the Atlantic forests of Brazil, some of the world's most diverse ecosystems have been converted to fast growing plantations. Brazil has millions of hectares of exotic plantations, made up mainly of eucalyptus, a non-native species.

Although some plantations are certified with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label, in others there have been repeated conflicts with indigenous peoples about land rights. Forty per cent of Brazil's bleached pulp is exported to Europe.


1  Carey C., Oettli D. 2006. Determining the links between agricultural crop expansion and deforestation. A report prepared for the WWF Forest Conversion Initiative. 71 pp.