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North America:
| Mexico

Bahamas | Dominican Republic | Haiti | Jamaica

Central America:
Costa Rica | El Salvador | Guatemala | Honduras | Nicaragua | Panama

South America:
Bolivia | Brazil | Chile | Colombia | Ecuador | Guyana | Paraguay | Peru | Trinidad

Table of Contents:

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The beauty and mystique of Brazil lies in the diversity of its natural resources, its electric culture, and eclectic population. The nation's immense area is subdivided into different ecosystems, which together sustain some of the world's greatest biodiversity. Home to the Amazon basin, Brazil's northern region is renowned for having both the world's largest tropical rainforest and river. High temperatures and ample rainfall typify this equatorial location- a hospitable habitat for myriad species. Amazonia gradually gives way to the Cerrado, a more open area of savanna-like vegetation with a semi-arid climate. In the Southwest, the Pantanal offers a conflux of marshlands, mangrove swamps, and sand dunes-the winter home for many North American birds. The Atlantic Coastal Forestal, a ribbon of forest in the South, and the desert of Caatinga, in the northeast, make up the other two major Brazilian ecosystems.

Threats to the Forest
Environmentalists, scientists, politicians, businessmen, and local populations understand the value of Brazil's natural resources, often with competing interests. Indigenous peoples and a great number of species subsist on the forests, which are threatened by expanding urbanization, agriculture, and pollution. Agriculture, fire and logging conversions have been primarily responsible for rapid deforestation. Consequently, Brazil's environmental problems have alarmed global audiences. Continued deforestation of one of the world's largest carbon sinks can have grave consequences: higher emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, extinction of numerous flora and fauna, and destruction of ecologically important areas, such as the Pantanal.

Why Does the US Forest Service Work in Brazil?
Since 1991, Brazil has worked with the United States, which has provided technical assistance on forestry related concerns. Funded by the US Agency for International Development, the US Forest Service has managed an extensive portfolio of natural resource activities, in partnership with several organizations: the Brazilian Institute for the Environment, the Brazilian Space Agency, the University of Brasilia, and the Fundaçao Floresta Tropical. The US Forest Service lends scientific and technical expertise to Brazil on several key issues, including fire and environmental change, sustainable forest management, habitat management, and forest health.

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Sustainable Forestry Practices
We have had long history of technical assistance in sustainable natural forest management in Brazil. In the Amazon, the Forest Service links research, training and technical assistance to sustainable forestry practices. By partnering up with the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the Institute for the Environment (IBAMA) and a variety of Brazilian non-governmental organizations and the newly created Centro de Apoio Florestal (CENAFLOR), the USFS delivers technical assistance with a particular focus on Brazil's National Forest Program.

Working with partners at the national level, the Forest Service facilitates discussions and technical assistance on important policy issues such as forest concessions, monitoring and control schemes, and the administration and management of national forests. In order to support policy issues, we are also playing a role by improving science information and knowledge on the effects of timber harvesting through the INPE/NASA Large-Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Project. The Forest Service has played an important role in facilitating the training and demonstration efforts of the Fundação Florestal Tropical, which has made significant strides in promoting sustainable forest management practices throughout the Amazon.

Current collaboration on forestry issues include:

A) Tapajos National Forest
The US Forest Service, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment, and the World Bank's G-7 Pilot Program work in the Tapajos National Forest (located near Santarem in the State of Para) to research and implement sustainable forestry practices. Work in the Tapajos National Forest currently focuses on effects of harvesting and means to reduce its impact. Past activities include recreation and ecotourism development, non-timber forest production, environmental education, and strategies to inform and involve community members in forest management. Project activities have expanded and strengthened, as a result of additional funding from the World Bank, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. The research and management practices implemented in Tapajos National Forest have been incorporated into other research and forest management plans in the Amazon.

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B) Effects of Harvesting on the Tapajos National Forest and Other Areas:
Brazil is initiating an ambitious national forest plan to encourage both natural and plantation forest management. One of the questions regarding natural forest management in the Amazon region is whether forest productivity without post-harvest silvicultural interventions is sufficient to support repeated timber harvests on 30 year cycles. Today we are working in partnership with Brazilian institutions to develop understanding and knowledge to answer this question. The following research activities are currently taking place in the Tapajos National Forest.

Harvesting Systems and Silviculture
This collaborative research project will describe and evaluate the efficiency and cost (including environmental costs) of harvesting systems and compare the relative efficiency and costs of reduced-impact versus conventional logging. Choosing and implementing a harvesting system is an important component of forest management for timber based commodities. Consequently, pre- and post-harvest measurements are ongoing at the Tapajos National Forest, while regular sampling of litter fall, fine roots, and soil solution chemistry are underway on both sand and clay soils. Graduate students are also conducting day-to-day samplings and lab work, including comparing greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and methane fluxes from logged versus intact forest.

With the help of the Fundação Florestal Tropical, researchers have treated reduced impact demonstration areas, an activity that includes liberation thinning. Constant monitoring of permanent plots is planned for the following five years, while monitoring of tree growth in commercial and pre-commercial size classes will take place annually for commercial and potentially commercial species.

Effects of Harvesting on Biophysics and Biogeochemistry in Forests
Harvesting large number of trees- and subsequent damages- causes large changes in the forest's microclimate. The US Forest Service, the Brazilian Ministry for the Environment, and NASA-funded researchers measure these changes before and after to quantify: a) the effects of timber harvest on microclimate and b) the atmospheric exchange of energy, water vapor, and carbon.

Although timber harvest may cause damage, it can also remove a large amount of forest biomass that could result in the deterioration of remaining stands. Also, it can change the cycling of carbon and nutrient elements. The US Forest Service and its partners are measuring the disruption and recovery of nutrient cycles. Along with studies of carbon and nutrients, the study of trace gas exchange, which establishes the links between the forest ecosystem and the chemical composition of the atmosphere, is taking place.

In cooperation with the Brazilian - Large-scale Atmosphere Biosphera (LBA) Project (NASA sponsored), researchers have established permanent plots for studying biophysics and biogeochemistry. In 1999, plots and equipment were installed, and towers to access forest canopy were constructed. US Forest Service investigators have conducted measurements of productivity (above and below ground) as well as nutrient cycles in undisturbed forest and on sand and clay soils. Initial trace gas measurements indicate that logged forest produces significantly more greenhouse gases than undisturbed forests.

Researchers continue to monitor nutrient and trace gas effects of harvesting. A second survey was completed on sandy-clay soil. Preliminary indications are that timber harvesting increases nitrous oxide and methane emissions measurably. However, when these emissions are extrapolated to a wider area, the effects of harvesting on trace gases (expressed as a Global Warming Potential) are far smaller than the effects from the carbon loss.

Wildlife and Biodiversity
Timber harvest also affects wildlife and biodiversity. For example, birds and bats play important roles as predators, pollinators, and seed dispersers. Studies of under story bird and bat populations inform researchers of the influence of forest disturbance on the abundance and function of forest fauna. As part of the research, mist nets survey birds and buts in control sites that have had little impact from logging. The survey indicates that 317 bird and 45 bat species inhabit those sites. Although both avian and bat diversity is very high, most species are rare. This poses a challenge for managers concerned with conserving biodiversity in timber producing forests in the Amazon.

Preliminary studies show that low impact logging has few effects on bird populations. In fact, avian frugivores and small avian omnivores have actually increased in the reduced impact loggings sites, relative to those in the control group. However, most of the bird populations in other diet groups have remained unchanged. Personnel from Museu Goeldi have conducted sampling four times per year, and the US Forest Service has completed gathering samplings from the forest and are currently reviewing data.

Related Publications:

For study results on the bird populations in the Tapajos National Forest please refer to:

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C) Fundaçao Floresta Tropical and Reduced-Impact Harvesting
As the Brazilian government expands it's national forest system and there is a increased use of timber from public lands, more forest practitioners are needed. Today there is a shortage of forest practitioners from woodmen to forest managers. Coupled with a growing acceptance of the need for improved management by the forest industry, new forest policies and guidelines along with shifting market pressures have created a shortage of qualified forestry practitioners.

In collaboration with the US Forest Service, the Tropical Forest Foundation and its Brazilian subsidiary, the Fundação Floresta Tropical, teach forest technicians, managers and supervisors how to apply forest management principles and reduced-impact logging methods in the Brazilian Amazon. In the past few years, workshops for multiple-use management training and technical education were coordinated to support efforts in the Tapajos National Forest and the private fazenda, Cauaxi. In addition, practical training courses in inventory, data processing, map making, planning, and low-impact harvesting techniques are offered to workers from local communities and private timber companies.

The Fundação continues to provide a variety of training to forest managers. The courses are two weeks in length and target a variety of audiences from foresters to decision makers to sawyers. The trainers also provide extension and technical assistance to communities and large companies adopting reduced-impact logging practices. Today the focus is on establishing a permanent training center in the Amazon.

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D) Cost-Benefit Analysis
A study by the US Forest Service and Tropical Forest Foundation examined costs and benefits of reduced-impact harvesting, versus conventional logging practices, in the Brazilian Amazon. Funded by the US Agency for International Development, the analysis includes a literature review of case studies in Latin America and development of a financial cost-benefit model for sites in Brazil. The Foundation hopes to develop a powerful spreadsheet to aid landowners and forest managers by predicting the financial costs and returns of using reduced-impact methods under a variety of conditions.

The analysis demonstrates that while conventional logging operations extract more volume of wood, the alternative plots were more efficient in volume harvested per tree- due to careful felling, bucking, and skidding operations. Reduced-impact logging stands will regenerate faster due to reduction in ground area disturbance. Total costs were also lower per volume and per hectare (but not per tree) because the gain in efficiency from skidding and log deck operations more than offset the increase in cost due to planning.

Reduced-impact logging is more effective than conventional operations, and if the latter were constrained to harvest the same number of trees, the former would also generate larger net revenues per hectare. The results suggest that future economic and ecological benefits provided by residual forest stands will be greater where reduced-impact logging techniques are used.

Related Publications:

A new report by Tom Holmes et al. on the financial costs and benefits of reduced impact logging in the eastern Amazon is now available. The study was a collaboration between the US Forest Service, US Agency for International Development, the Center for International Forestry Research and the Tropical Forest Foundation.

  • For the full report click here.
  • For the condensed version of the report, click here

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E) Big-leaf Mahogany in Southeast Para: Its Life History and Management
Cooperative research with the US Forest Service, the International Institute for Tropical Forestry, the Institute for Man and the Environment in the Amazon and the US Agency for International Development is generating new information on the life history of mahogany. How fast mahogany grows, how it reproduces, and how and where it regenerates provide important information for policy makers, a wide range of forest managers, trained foresters in the logging industry, smallholder agriculturalists and rubber-tappers, who encourage mahogany replacements after extraction.

The Mahogany Project in Brazil now has research and management objectives in two geographical regions within Amazonia: southeast Pará, where studies of mahogany's growth and regeneration ecology have been on-going since 1995, and the western Amazonian state of Acre, where both basic and applied research were initiated in October 2001. In Acre, management recommendations derived from field research in Pará for mahogany's sustained-yield production from natural forests are being tested as part of a pilot management project implemented within a private land-holding of approximately 8000 hectares located near Sena Madureira.

Field activities since April 2002 at three southeast Pará sites focused on recensusing diameter increment and fruit production by nearly 500 adult and sub-adult trees monitored annually since 1996. As well, natural and artificial regeneration at the study's principal research site, Marajoara, was recensused for survivorship.

At the Acre site, inventory and preparation for the 2002 logging season continued until the Fundação Floresta Tropical (FFT) field personnel arrived from Belém and Cauaxi to train an Acrean field crew in reduced-impact logging techniques appropriate to highly dissected local terrain. In 2002, only 100 ha. were logged, but this year 450 ha. are expected to be harvested.

Through its affiliation with the Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON), the Mahogany Project is making a direct contribution to forest policy in the Brazilian Amazon through various public fora and publications. IMAZON researchers were invited by the Regional Commission on Environmental Legislation, an advisory board convened by the Ministry of the Environment, to sit on a Technical Working Group drafting legislation that will govern the sustainable management of mahogany in primary forests. Also, the Imazon publication "Mogno na Amazônia Brasileira: Ecologia e Perspectivas de Manejo" or "Mahogany in the Brazlian Amazon: Ecology and Perspectives on Management," by Grogan, Barreto & Veríssimo, was translated into English, and both are available in electronic and booklet forms.

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Fire Management
Fire is one of the most dangerous threat to the Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems. It increases carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and destroys large tracts of habitat. Working with our partners, the US Forest Service provides technical assistance and training in fire prevention and suppression. Specifically, the Agency collaborates with the Brazilian Institute of the Environment to strengthen the country's fire strategies and policies.

In 1990, when this collaboration began, very little information was available on fire behavior, intensity, spread, emissions, and impact on the ecosystem. Today, the collaboration has enhanced researcher and practitioners' ability to estimate the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions from fire in Brazil, to regulate the use of fire in agriculture and other land use practices, to manage fire, and to support strategies for conservation and sustainable development of tropical ecosystems. In addition, progress has been made in estimating biomass consumption and emissions factors, flammability thresholds, and fire spread and intensity. Additional emphasis on applied research is still necessary to consolidate the results and produce a comprehensive fire assessment for Brazil that could serve as a model for the rest of the world.

To learn more about our collaborative work on fire science and management please read our synthesis of 14 years of work in Brazil.

For a historical perspective and the results of the collaborative program please refer to the following report both in Portuguese and English.

- English report
- Portuguese report

Current fire management activities in Brazil include:

A) Photo Series
In order to address wildfire issues, the US Forest Service has been working with several partners in Brazil for the past nine years on the Fire and Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems program. Specifically, the US-Brazil team has focused on developing a component of this large-scale research-the Stereo Photo Series for Quantifying Cerrado Fuels in Central Brazil. A tool for assessing biomass loading and flammability in the Cerrado, or the Brazilian Savannah, the photo series can also be used as a quick and cheap way to evaluate different fuel and vegetation conditions. The first volume is available in Portuguese and English.

If you are interested in ordering the Stereo Photo Series for Quantifying Cerrado Fuels in Central Brazil, please contact either Dr. Heloisa Miranda at the University of Brasilia ( or Roger Ottmar at the US Forest Service ( Currently, a project is underway to photograph and collect data for a second Cerrado photo series volume to represent other Cerrado type vegetation.

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Forest Health/Invasive Species
The rate of afforestation of exotic pines in Brazil has dramatically increased in the last two decades. Presently, these pine plantations- Pinus taeda and Pinus elliottii- cover over two million hectares, which has been relatively pest-free. However, in 1998, the Sirex Wood Wasp was discovered in southern Brazil. This exotic pest- native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa- has wreaked widespread havoc in New Zealand and Australia, while infested plantations in Brazil have suffered a 60% rate of tree mortality. Since the United States imports large amounts of wood from Brazil, this pest poses a devastating threat to our domestic forests.

Current forest health activities in Brazil include:

Biological Control of Sirex Noctilio in Brazil
The US Forest Service and Brazilian Agriculture Research Agency (EMBRAPA) are collaborating to develop an Integrated Pest Management Program for the exotic woodwasp, Sirex noctilio. This non-native invasive insect is causing significant damage to the exotic pine plantations in Brazil as well as other countries in South America. The insect also poses a serious threat to native pine forests in the United States.

Several activities are taking place to reduce the pine losses to the woodwasp. Currently the US Forest Service provides expertise in remote sensing, aerial survey, and biological control. The results of the cooperation and technical assistance will benefit both the US and Brazil. These results include a host map that identifies all slash and loblolly pine plantations susceptible to attack; a database that tracks the distribution and level of damage due to the Sirex; an operational aerial detection programs for the detection, quantification and monitoring of tree mortality; and a technology transfer program in biocontrol methods and pest detection.

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Migratory Species/Habitat Management
In 2003, the People, Wings and Forests Program sponsored 14 bird conservation projects in the Americas, including:

  • Pantanal - Brazil
  • Nariva Wetland - Trinidad - Tobago
  • RESERVA - Latin America
  • Western Boreal Forest - Canada
  • Copper River International Migratory Bird Initiative
  • Sinaloa Coastal Wetlands - Mexico
  • Mexican Shorebird Plan - Mexico
  • Kirtland's Warbler - Bahamas
  • Shortgrass Prairie Birds - Mexico
  • Bicknell's Thrush - Dominican Republic
  • Caribbean/Central America Fire Management
  • Cerulean Warbler - Andes
  • Bird-friendly Coffee - Colombia
  • Mexico Fire management Plan - Mexico

Various organizations work together on these projects, designed for direct enhancement of bird conservation. The US Forest Service International Programs' work inthe Americas strengthens ecosystem management ensuring the survival of migratory birds. The US Forest Service's scientific and management expertise helps improve ecosystem integrity and biological diversity as well as identify critical habitats for migratory birds and waterfowl throughout the Americas.

In the Pantanal--the world's largest freshwater ecosystem located in the Upper Paraguay River basin that spans across parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia--the Agency works with Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy on two separate but linked conservation management projects. First, Ducks Unlimited and the US Forest Service recently completed a pilot project- a conservation assessment- that encompassed the southwestern most part of the Pantanal ecosystem, a transect that spans all three countries. The effort integrated the work of many local partners to standardize geographically-based data. By analyzing satellite images and existing data, researchers stratified the information and generated a shared database, which the public and private sector institutions can now use to detect ecological changes and complete impact assessments for use in conservation planning. The GIS database and the report on the pilot project, "Upper Paraguay River Basin GIS Database Project", has been released by Ducks Unlimited, and is available to the public at The Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited are now looking at ways to expand the project into the entire watershed.

Second, the US Forest Service is lending its expertise to the The Nature Conservancy- and its eco-regional planning effort- in order to develop monitoring systems for evaluating: a) critical biodiversity conservation areas within the Pantanal and b) threats to those areas.

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Click here for other partners and collaborators of the US Forest Service International Programs.

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Related Publications

Related Publications:

Produccion para America Tropical (Forest Production for Tropical America), by Frank Wadsworth, is now available online. To obtain a copy of the book, please contact:

Ms. Gisel Reyes
IITF Library
PO Box 25000
Tel: 1-787--766-5335

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2000 US Forest Service International Programs
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