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Brazil's land registration program has slowed deforestation, study finds

"Brazil was able to implement this program in a region where land tenure is very insecure, which suggests it would be possible in other parts of the world," said economist Jennifer Alix-Garcia.

By Brooks Hays
Brazil's land registration program has slowed deforestation, study finds
Roughly 13 percent of the world's intact forests are in Brazil. Photo by Pixabay/CC

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Rates of deforestation on private land have slowed in Brazil in recent years, and a new study, published this week in the journal Conservation Letters, credits the nation's land registration program.

Over the past decade, Brazil has installed a series of state-run registration programs called CAR, short for Cadastro Ambiental Rural, as well the nationally administered SiCAR, Sistema Nacional de Cadastro Ambiental Rural. The programs -- now run as a single national program -- have helped landowners more easily showcase compliance with environmental regulations and helped policy makers better monitor land use.

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"Brazil was able to implement this program in a region where land tenure is very insecure, which suggests it would be possible in other parts of the world," Jennifer Alix-Garcia, an economist at Oregon State University, said in a news release.

Most deforestation in Brazil is caused by the expansion of agricultural lands, for farming and livestock grazing. CAR, which was recently integrated into the SiCAR system, helps regulators enforce environmental codes and ensure farmers and other private landowners are abiding by zero-deforestation agreements.

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Brazil is home to 13 percent of the world's remaining intact forests. And though deforestation in the country has slowed, Brazil still accounts for the second largest share of the planet's forest loss -- a leading cause of global warming.

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To determine the success of the program, researchers measured deforestation in randomly selected plots of land between 2006 and 2013, both before and after the implementation of the CAR system in the Amazon states of Mato Grosso and Para. Their analysis suggests the program reduced deforestation by 10 percent.

"Property registration is particularly important for initiatives such as Brazil's Soy Moratorium and Zero-Deforestation Cattle Agreements, which aim to trace supply chains on the ground," said Holly Gibbs, professor of geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin.

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Researchers suggest the program could be improved by making land registration data freely available to the public.

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