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The arc of deforestation

The arc of deforestation

The Amazon Rain Forest is an area of the earth that every single living creature depends upon. At the highest point, we lost more than 27,000 square kilometers (km/2) of rainforest in a year. Realizing that we were storing up problems for ourselves in the long run we did actually manage to cut back to a lowest rate of 4,751 km/2 in 2012 and since then, the numbers have continued to sneak back up.

Effects of deforestation

Besides losing the natural resource which breaths in carbon dioxide, deforestation wreaks havoc on the local ecosystem. The canopy – the area at the very top of the trees – is thinned which allows the sun to reach the floor of the rainforest drying it out and causing a broader temperature variance than would normally happen.

There is an area in Amazonia where the damage has been so extensive that it is referred to as the arc of deforestation. Roughly 80% of the loss in Amazonia has taken place in this area named for its shape.


In 2017 a project was started to restore a large area of the arc of deforestation to something of its former glory. The plan is to restore the equivalent of a football field, actually 30,000 of them by replanting native trees and also protecting them.

When we think of trees that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, tropical trees are the ones which are the most important. If we were to stop deforestation today the remaining trees could remove about 37% of existing carbon dioxide levels. That allows us to get within sight of the numbers agreed in the Paris accord.

Imagine then what reforesting 70,000 acres of tropical forest would do for the world as a whole and the arc itself in a fairly short period of time.


In the arc especially a new form of planting is taking place. In the past what has tended to happen is that saplings have been taken to the area and planted there. It is a process which is slow, labor intensive and when it fails, if a tree fails to take, the failure it total.

The Muvuca planting strategy is different. The aim is to seed large areas with a large volume of seeds from a range of species and let nature take its course. There is an element of natural selection here. The plants which compete the most successfully for the sunshine and nutrients are the ones which will survive. It is survival of the fittest in action.

A 2014 study showed that up to 90% of the seeds germinated. But even more successfully, the density of vegetation per hectare is fifteen times the sapling approach and after 10 the effect is multiplied many times over.

Another aspect of this project is that the very people who were part of the deforestation push from the need for agriculture are being paid to reforest. There are few success stories, but this is one I truly love.

Becky Day