Conservation Areas

System of Conservation Areas (SNUC)

In Brazil, the institutionalization of protected areas reflects the country's constitutional provisions, as well as the international environmental context. The Federal Constitution of 1988, in its article 225 1, guarantees an "environmentally balanced environment" and attributes responsibility for defending and preserving this to the government. One of the instruments that the Constitution establishes to fulfil this responsibility is the "definition of territorial spaces and their components that are to be specially protected"; that is, it determines that government must create protected areas and ensure that they contribute to the maintenance of an "environmentally balanced environment".

In this way, international agreements together with the Federal Constitution led to a National System of Conservation Areas (SNUC); that is to say, a system that regulates and provides guidelines for the implementation and management of a type of protected area in the country. Conservation Area (Unidade de Conservação - UC) is understood to be a part of the national territory or its coastal waters, established by municipal, state or federal authority, as an area under a special administration regime. This is achieved by the recognition of the area as having significant natural features and the application of guarantees to protect their environmental attributes. There are multiple categories of UCs, with differing names and guidelines for activities to be carried out; some are more restrictive, focused on research and conservation; others are intended for visitation and educational activities; and some aim to harmonize human settlement with economic and urban land use.

The process of developing and negotiating a National System of Conservation Areas (SNUC) took more than ten years and was controversial among environmentalists. The resulting (Law nº 9.985/2000)2 represented a significant advance in the establishment of an effective system of protected areas in the country.  One of the difficulties, already evident at the time, was how to define management categories, eliminating overlapping categories and creating new categories where gaps were identified.

In 1994, congressman Fábio Feldmann presented an amendment to the SNUC Bill, introducing significant modifications to the original text and starting a controversy that would last for six years concerning the presence of traditional populations in protected areas. In 1995, a new amendment was presented, this time by congressman Fernando Gabeira, that deepened the differences among environmentalists, further fuelling the controversy. After numerous meetings, public hearings, drafts and modifications, the bill was approved by Congress in 2000, but there were still some provisions vetoed by the President, such as the definition of traditional populations.

The National System of Conservation Areas thus considers;thus considers: the categories of protected areas; the objectives and guidelines of the system; the process of creating, implementing and managing areas; biosphere reserves; and, in its transitional provisions, a number of other issues.  The objectives of the system are to contribute to maintaining biodiversity, promoting sustainable development, scientific research and environmental education; and protecting landscapes of outstanding scenic beauty. A further objective reflects a concern for populations that have historically been excluded from protected areas: the protection of “natural resources necessary for the subsistence of traditional populations, respecting and valuing their knowledge and culture, and promoting these social and economically". This objective shows greater consideration for communities that live in and around the conservation area, and an understanding of their role in maintaining biodiversity.

Conservation areas, as defined by the SNUC, are "territorial spaces and their environmental resources, including jurisdictional waters, with important natural features, legally established by public authority, with conservation objectives and defined boundaries, under a special administrative regime, to which adequate safeguards are applied". They are categorised into two groups: Full Protection and Sustainable Use.

The SNUC was regulated by Decree nº 4.340/2002 3 which deals, inter alia, with the creation and implementation of conservation areas, dos mosaics of areas,, the management plan, the council, shared management including civil society organizations, da environmental compensation, resettlement of traditional populations and biosphere reserves. The guidelines address: the participation of society in the various levels of the system; the establishment of policies; the processes of creating and managing the areas; the integration of the areas into wider land and water resource administration policies; the economic sustainability of the areas; and the protection of large areas connecting protected areas and their buffer zones by means of ecological corridors.

In the general and transitory provisions of the SNUC the question of traditional populations residing in protected areas arises, with the conclusion that their continued presence should not be allowed.  In such cases, it provides for compensation to respect their way of life and sources of livelihoods and stipulates that "the conditions for the permanence of such populations in full protection conservation areas will be regulated by legal agreements negotiated by the implementing agency and the resident populations, following consultation with conservation area council". At the time, despite not offering such communities any option but resettlement, many considered that these provisions represented a significant legal advance in this matter since previously, notwithstanding the fact that many areas contained resident populations, this subject had not been addressed in official documents, nor had these populations been mentioned in management plans. From this point on, traditional populations have had to be compensated and indemnified for investments made and relocation takes place under conditions agreed with the public authority. Until such time as resettlement is possible, "specific norms and actions designed to reconcile the presence of traditional resident populations to the objectives of the conservation area, without detriment to the way of life, sources of subsistence and the dwellings of these populations, will be established, with their guaranteed participation in the elaboration of such norms and actions".

The logic of territorial loss by traditional communities, who typically have lived in places recognized by public authority as important priority areas for the conservation of biodiversity and of associated ecological and climatic processes, even before these are recognized as such, is also the reality outside Brazil. Additionally, most of the time, it is these local actors who have been responsible for ensuring the integrity of these conservation areas and have for generations resisted the expansion of predatory development pressures that will convert forests and other natural environments into infertile soil and degraded landscapes.
For a long time, the idea of wilderness was prevalent in the form of "preservationism," a current of thought that arose in the United States and Britain in the nineteenth century and, under the influence of which, some concerned about the disappearance of important natural areas preached a model of protection based on an antagonistic relationship between man and nature. It was on the basis of this model that many protected areas were established, including Yellowstone National Park.
In Brazil, beginning in the 1950s, the creation of protected areas formed part of a federal land-use planning project to promote occupation, development, and expansion in the agricultural frontier areas of the Centre-West and the Amazon, by reserving to public authority important areas with abundant and strategic resources, in which colonization and expansion of production projects could be established 4.
As part of this geopolitical action, in 1974 the Amazonia National Park and the Tapajós National Forest were created. At the time, National Forest (Flona) was a category that did not permit human presence inside its area. This generated numerous conflicts involving the families of eighteen communities that had been there prior to its creation1,2. The same happened in the case of the Amazonia National Park (Parna): its demarcation was only initiated in 2004 and was marked by successive conflicts with the fourteen affected communities, until a consensus was reached between their leaders and representatives of the park’s advisory council.
The impact of this preservationist model, with its rules and use controls, was devastating for local populations. The great majority of these conservation areas were paper creations where no population or land surveys of the areas were carried out. Thus, many were superimposed on territories inhabited for centuries by different social groups, including indigenous peoples, quilombolas (maroons) and extractive communities. Resulting impacts included prohibition or regulation of basic subsistence activities, such as fishing, extraction and hunting, as well as cultural activities.
This restrictive view of human presence in conservation areas began to change in the late 1980s. One landmark event was the IV World Parks Congress held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992. At this event, scientists recognized the importance of the knowledge and presence of traditional populations in protected areas. It was recognized that even agriculture in Amazonian pre-history was a factor that had contributed to its biological diversity, and therefore much of what is seen as positive and needing to be preserved is in fact the result of management by former human communities.
The Categories of protected areas that allowed for human occupation thus gained fundamental status in Amazonian biodiversity conservation and in environmental policies, becoming considered an important step to solving the false dilemma between human populations and biodiversity conservation. One consequence of this new view of protected areas was the creation of two new conservation area categories: the Extractive Reserve (Resex) and the Sustainable Development Reserve (RDS). The Extractive Reserve was a "genuinely Brazilian contribution to the concept of protected areas", derived from the empates, the tactics of social movements and traditional populations in the state of Acre – learn more clicking here.
However, although many countries and governments continue the practice of removing traditional communities from their territories, in Brazil the Federal Prosecution Service strongly questioned this practice. Despite some differences, the rights guaranteed to traditional populations under the 1988 Federal Constitution - articles 231 and 232 for indigenous communities and Articles 215, 216, together with Article 68 of the Transitional Constitutional Provisions Act, for quilombolas and other traditional communities -  are very similar in their fundamental aspects. In addition, ILO Convention 169, as well as guaranteeing these communities the right to participation in processes that affect them, prohibits forced removal from traditional territories and extends this protection to all, whether indigenous, quilombolas or traditional communities.  Read more about this in the Federal Prosecution Service manual: Traditional peoples’ and communities’ territories and full protection conservation areas: alternatives that guarantee socio-environmental rights in 2014 6.

See more on two related cases: Agreement with the residents of the Piratuba Lake Biological Reserve and the Rio Pardo riverbank communities.

Despite its many limitations, the existence of a legal framework covering a system of protected areas is by itself a significant advance vis-à-vis the previous situation, where there were only standards for each category of conservation area. It also reflects the changes in the ways of selecting and managing protected areas that have occurred in recent decades. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning two aspects that perhaps restrict the efficiency of the SNUC as a system:

1) the SNUC only concerns conservation areas strictu sensu, found in categories that the SNUC itself stipulates; and

2) the lack of integration of the system with other land use and biological resources policies.

In addition, although conservation areas are an indispensable part of the conservation strategy, the simple fact of their delimitation is not enough to maintain the integrity of their physical-chemical processes nor the ecological and evolutionary processes, that maintain biodiversity, since such processes transcend political and administrative boundaries. Thus, in addition to the National System of Conservation Areas, other policies and practices are required to complement the conservation strategy, together with species conservation plans, economic-ecological zoning, restoration of degraded habitats, maintenance of landscape connectivity and restrictions on degrading and polluting activities, through a robust licensing system.

Categories of Conservation Areas

The SNUC establishes twelve (12) conservation area categories, under the categories of either Full Protection or Sustainable Use. As Full Protection Areas aim to preserve nature, with only indirect use of their natural resources allowed, with the exceptions provided for under the law. As Sustainable Use Areas, in turn, aim to harmonize nature conservation and sustainable use of resources, reconciling human presence in protected areas. Under the full protection heading there are five different categories. These are Ecological Station, Biological Reserve, National Park, Natural Monument and Wildlife Refuge. In the sustainable use group, the categories are: Environmental Protection Area, Area of Special Ecological Importance, National Forest, Extractive Reserve, Fauna Reserve, Sustainable Development Reserve, and Private Natural Heritage Reserve. However, as the SNUC presupposes complementarity with state and municipal conservation area systems, in some situations there may be conservation area categories different from those listed above, such as State Parks and State Forests.

Although the SNUC has unified the stages and guidelines for the creation and management of the twelve conservation area categories, some areas with other denominations are found, mainly in state and municipal contexts. This is because, prior to the creation of the SNUC in 2000, there were already in these other jurisdictions a number of legal instruments that enabled other such instances. The law establishing the SNUC 2 stipulates that protected areas created under prior legislation should be reassessed, as a whole or in part, within a period of two years, in order to define their new category on the basis of the category and purpose for which they were created. However, not all such revaluations took place within the established period and, even today, there are existing protected area categories that do not conform to those defined by the law. In addition, the SNUC itself allowed, at the discretion of CONAMA (the National Environment Council), the existence of state or municipal conservation areas that, being designed to meet regional or local peculiarities, have management objectives that cannot be satisfactorily met by any category provided for under the SNUC law and whose characteristics reveal, in relation to these, a clear distinction. Examples of this are the Estrada Parque (Park Highway) and the Rio Cênico (Scenic River).

Important areas for environmental conservation that are not part of the SNUC

There are also other categories of protected area that are often confused with the SNUC categories, but which fall neither within this system nor the systems of Indigenous Lands or Quilombola Lands. To provide some clarification of existing areas that do not conform to those defined by the SNUC, here is a brief description of some of them:

Permanent Preservation Area (APP): APPs are areas regulated by the Forest Code, which focuses on the preservation of water resources, landscapes, geological stability, soil protection and on ensuring the well-being of human populations. Mangroves, springs, river banks and mountain tops are examples of APPs.

Listed Area: a different category from the others, whose purpose is to preserve an area with cultural value and of historical or landscape importance. An example of a listed area is the São Lourenço Fort, in Bahia.

Experimental Station: These are areas dedicated to carrying out educational programmes and scientific research activities, where environmental management of the forest can be practised and often include a tree and plant nursery. The Bauru Experimental Station, in the interior of São Paulo, is an example.

Forest Nursery: usually located close to urban centres, these focus on environmental education, well-being and recreation of the local population, together with a seed collection and the production of seedlings. An example is the Horto Florestal de Campos do Jordão. The Horto Florestal da Zona Norte de São Paulo, although retaining its original name, is now a conservation area, the Albert Löefgren State Park.

Ecological Park: a preserved green area whose main purpose is leisure and public use, as well as preservation of water resources, recuperation of degraded areas, environmental education and research. The Tietê Ecological Park in São Paulo is an example.

Urban Park: a green area in an urban setting primarily destined for recreation and leisure. Many offer cultural services such as museums, entertainment venues and cultural and educational centers, as well as sporting activities, offering courts, pitches and cycle paths. Urban parks are often the point of contact between the urban dweller and nature, which makes them important tools for environmental awareness. Examples are the Ibirapuera Park and the Trianon Park, both in São Paulo.

Full Protection Conservation Areas

Ecological Station (ESEC):  its purpose is to preserve nature and carry out scientific research. It is public property and the specific area within its boundaries needs to be expropriated. In such areas, public visitation is prohibited, except for educational purposes, in accordance with the provisions of the area’s o Management Plan or other regulation. Scientific research requires prior authorization by the area’s administrative authority and is subject to conditions and restrictions established by this. In Ecological Stations, ecosystem changes are allowed in cases of:

a) measures aimed at restoring altered ecosystems;

b) species management to preserve biological diversity;

c) collection of ecosystem components for scientific purposes; and

d) scientific research whose impact on the environment is greater than that caused by simple observation or controlled collection of ecosystem components in an area corresponding to a maximum of 3% of the total area, up to a limit of 1,500 hectares.

Currently there are 25 federal and state Ecological Stations in the Legal Amazon.

Biological Reserve (REBIO): its purpose is the total preservation of the biota and other natural attributes present within its boundaries, with no direct human interference or environmental modification, except for measures for recovery of altered ecosystems and management action necessary to recover and preserve natural balance, biological diversity and natural ecological processes. It is public property and the specific area within in boundaries must be expropriated. In Biological Reserves, public visitation is prohibited, except for educational purposes; scientific research requires the prior authorization of the agency responsible for administration of the area and is subject to conditions and restrictions established by this. Currently, there are 16 federal and state Biological Reserves in the Legal Amazon.

 National Parkl (PARNA): its primary purpose is the preservation of natural ecosystems of outstanding ecological importance and scenic beauty, and the enabling of scientific research and the development of educational, environmental interpretation, nature recreation and tourism activities. It is public property and the specific area within in boundaries must be expropriated. Public visitation is subject to the rules and restrictions established in the area’s Management Plan and rules established by the responsible administrative authority. Scientific research requires prior authorization from the agency responsible and is subject to conditions and restrictions established by this. The category of area, when created by state or municipality, will be denominated, respectively, State Park and Municipal Park 1.

Currently there are 26 National Parks in the Legal Amazon and 43 State Parks.

Natural Monument (MONAT): its main purpose is to preserve natural sites that are rare, unusual or of great scenic beauty. It can comprise privately owned areas, provided the use of the land and its natural resources by the owners is compatible with the objectives of the area. If these are not compatible, or if the owner does not agree to the conditions for the coexistence of the Natural Monument with the use of the property proposed by the agency responsible for the management of the area, the area must be expropriated, in accordance with the provisions of the law. Public visitation is subject to conditions and restrictions established under the area’s Management Plan and the rules established by the responsible administrative authority. Considering both federal and state areas, there are currently 3  MONATs in the Legal Amazon

Wildlife Refuge (RVS): its purpose is to protect natural environments in order to ensure conditions for the existence or reproduction of species or communities of native flora and fauna or of migratory fauna. It can comprise privately owned areas, provided the use of the land and its natural resources by the owners is compatible with the objectives of the area.  If these are not compatible, or if the owner does not agree to the conditions for the coexistence of the Wildlife Refuge with the use of the property proposed by the agency responsible for the management of the area, the area must be expropriated, in accordance with the provisions of the law. Public visitation is subject to the rules and restrictions set out in the area management plan and the rules established by the responsible management authority. Scientific research requires prior authorization of the responsible agency and is subject to conditions and restrictions established by this. Considering both federal and state areas, there are currently 5 Wildlife Refuges in the Legal Amazon.

Sustainable Use Conservation Areas

Environmental Protection Area (Área de Proteção Ambiental - APA)l : an area, generally large, with a certain level of human occupation, endowed with abiotic, biotic, aesthetic or cultural attributes especially important for the quality of life and well-being of human populations. Its purpose is to protect biological diversity, discipline the occupation process, and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. It can consist of both public and private land. Rules for conducting scientific research and public visitation in publicly owned areas will be established by the area management body and in privately owned areas by the owner. An Environmental Protection Area will have a Board chaired by the responsible administrative body comprising representatives of public agencies, civil society organizations and the resident population. Currently, there are 47 federal and state Environmental Protection Areas in the Amazonia Legal.

Area of Special Ecological Importance (ARIE): an area, generally small, with little or no human occupation, with unusual natural characteristics or housing rare examples of regional biota, which seeks to maintain the natural ecosystems of regional or local importance and regulate the permitted use of these areas in order to make this compatible with its nature conservation objectives. An Area of Special Ecological Importance may be constituted by public or private lands and, provided constitutional rights are respected, norms and restrictions can be established for the use of private property located in an Area of Special Ecological Importance 1. As in the cases of ESECs and APAs, legal provision already existed prior to the SNUC 2. There are currently 4 federal and state Areas of Special Ecological Importance in the Legal Amazon.

National Forest (FLONA): a forested area with predominantly native species and with the prime purpose of ensuring sustainable multiple use of its forest resources and scientific research, with an emphasis on methods for sustainable utilization of native forests. It is publicly owned and the specific areas within its boundaries need to be expropriated, in accordance with the provisions of the law. Traditional populations residing in the area at the time of its creation may remain, in accordance with the regulatory provisions of the area’s Management Plan . Public visitation is permitted, subject to the area management rules established by the responsible administrative body. Research is permitted and encouraged, subject to prior authorization by the administrative body, the conditions and restrictions established by this and those established by regulation. A National Forest should have an Advisory Board, chaired by the responsible administrative body and made up of representatives of public bodies, civil society organizations and, where appropriate, resident traditional populations. Areas in this category created by states or municipalities will be denominated, respectively, as State Forest (Floresta Estadual) and Municipal Forest (Floresta Municipal)1. In the Legal Amazon there are currently 34 National Forests, and, at state level, 1 Extractive Forests (Florestas Extrativistas) and 0 Sustained Income Forests (Florestas de Rendimento Sustentado.

Extractive Reserve (RESEX): an area used by traditional populations whose subsistence is based on extractivism and, additionally on subsistence agriculture and small animal husbandry. Its primary purpose is to protect the livelihoods and culture of these populations and to ensure the sustainable use of the area's natural resources. An Extractive Reserve is publicly owned, with usage rights granted to the traditional extractive population. In accordance with the law, private areas within its boundaries must be expropriated. An Extractive Reserve is managed by a Deliberative Council, chaired by the responsible administrative body and made up of representatives of public agencies, civil society organizations and traditional populations resident in the area. Public visitation is permitted, as long as it is compatible with local interests and in accordance with the area’s Management Plan Scientific research is permitted and encouraged, subject to the prior authorization of the responsible administrative agency. In such Reserves, the exploitation of mineral resources and amateur or professional hunting are prohibited. The commercial exploitation of timber resources will only be allowed on a sustainable basis, in special situations and complementary to the other activities carried out in the RESEX. Currently there are 77  Extractive Reserves in the Brazilian Amazon.

Faunistic Reserve (Reserva de Fauna - RFAU): is a natural area with populations of native terrestrial or aquatic animal species, resident or migratory, suited to technical-scientific studies on the sustainable economic management of faunistic resources. It is a publicly owned area and the specific areas within its boundaries must be expropriated in accordance with the provisions of the law. Public visitation may be permitted, and amateur or professional hunting is prohibited. Currently there are only 1 Faunistic Reserves in the Legal Amazon.

Sustainable Development Reserve(Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável - RDS): a natural area containing traditional populations whose existence is based on sustainable systems of exploitation of natural resources, developed over generations and adapted to local ecological conditions, and which play a key role in the protection of nature and maintenance of biological diversity. This category of area has the prime objective of preserving nature and, at the same time, ensuring the necessary conditions and means for the reproduction and improvement of the ways of life, well-being and natural resource utilization of traditional populations, as well as valuing, conserving and enhancing the environmental management knowledge and techniques developed by these populations. A Sustainable Development Reserve is a publicly owned area and private areas within its boundaries should, where necessary, be expropriated in accordance with the provisions of the law. The Reserve is managed by a Deliberative Council, chaired by the responsible administrative body and made up of representatives of public agencies, civil society organizations and traditional populations residing in the area. Public visitation and a scientific research are permitted and encouraged, although subject to local interests and rules. The exploitation of components of natural ecosystems under a sustainable management regime and the replacement of vegetation cover by cultivated species are allowed when in accordance with the Management Plan. Currently there are 26 RDS Sustainable Development Reserves in the Legal Amazon.

Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural (RPPN): a private area, created at the initiative of the owner, registered in perpetuity, for the purpose of conserving biological diversity. In this category of conservation area, scientific research and visitation for tourism, recreation and educational purposes are permitted. See more about the background to this category here.

Access our data dashboard providing thematic information on federal conservation areas throughout Brazil and on state areas in the Legal Amazon.

Where does this idea come from?

The idea of reserving particular spaces is very old and originally had at least two main motivations: the preservation of sacred places where human utilization and even presence were forbidden, such as sacred forests in Russia, and the maintenance of stocks of strategic resources7, 8 and 9

Royal game reserves already appear in the Assyrian historical records of 700 BC The Romans were concerned with maintaining wood stocks needed for ship building, among other products. In India, royal game reserves were established in the third century CE. Feudal lords set aside significant portions of their forests as timber, hunting or fishing reserves. Colonial powers in Africa, over the last two centuries, also set aside spaces for the conservation of certain natural resources.  Only in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the transformational role of humans and the decline of pristine or “virgin” areas became evident, did the setting aside of defined spaces for the conservation of natural landscapes begin. Thus, the spaces chosen were those containing sublime landscapes needing protection 9 and 10.

The first protected area was the Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872 in the northwestern United States of America, designed to conserve beautiful virgin landscapes for future generations and where a human would always be a visitor, never a resident. This park became a model and inspiration for the creation of many others. In 1885, Canada created its first national park, New Zealand did the same in 1894, followed by South Africa and Australia in 1898. In Latin America, Mexico created its first protected area in 1894; Argentina in 1903; Chile in 1926 9, 10 and 11.

In Brazil, although Itatiaia National Park on the borders of the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, created in 1937 with the objective of encouraging scientific research and offering leisure to urban populations, is the oldest National Park in the country, the establishment of protected areas long predated this. The Acre Forest Reserve (Reserva Florestal do Acre), in the southwestern Amazon, was the first protected area created, and covered over 37,000 square kilometres. In 1911 the then President of the Republic, Hermes da Fonseca, created this reserve along the upper Acre, upper Purus-Envira, Gregório and upper Juruá rivers in order to contain the disorderly devastation of the forests that, according to him, was already causing visible and disastrous effects, as well as climate change. Debates on the protection of species threatened with extinction and on the exhaustion of natural resources that dominated discussions on the old continent exerted a special influence on the emerging Brazilian intellectual class, largely trained in traditional European universities 10 and 12.

Already in the early nineteenth century, José Bonifácio was undoubtedly one of the exponents of Brazilian environmental thought most strongly motivated by the defense of forest resources. He was very concerned about the destruction of forests, as he had studied the effects of deforestation on fertility and soil in Portugal. In 1821, he suggested the creation of an administrative sector with special responsibility for the conservation of forests, given that parts of the Atlantic Forest, especially in north-eastern Brazil, had been destroyed by timber extraction 8, 10 and 13.

However, it was only in 1876, at the suggestion of engineer André Rebouças - inspired by the creation of Yellowstone Park in the United States - that the first initiative for the creation of a National Park in Brazil occurred. The original idea was to create two National Parks: one in Sete Quedas and another on Bananal Island.  This proposal created the space for a broad discussion and mobilization in the following years, significantly contributing to the creation of the first Brazilian national parks. Although the pressures for the creation of parks in Brazil during the second half of the nineteenth century were strong, such intentions were only realised following the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. The pioneering creation of the State Park of São Paulo in 1896 was an important step in this direction.

Fifty years after the creation of Yellowstone, however, there was still no globally accepted definition of the purpose of national parks. To this end, the Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in the Natural State was agreed in London in 1933.The Convention defined three characteristics of national parks:

1) areas managed by public authority;

2) areas for the preservation of fauna and flora, objects of aesthetic, geological and archaeological interest, where hunting is prohibited; and

3) areas for public visitation.

In 1959 the first list of national parks and equivalent reserves 7, 9, 10 and 13 was drawn up by the United Nations. The following year the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), with the aim of promoting, monitoring and guiding the management of such spaces. In 1992 the Fourth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, held in Caracas, Venezuela, established a set of categories of protected areas, which were adopted by IUCN in 1994:

Category Ia Strict Nature Reserve: strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring.

Category Ib Wilderness Area: usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.

Category II National Park: large natural or near natural areas  set  aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities.

 Category III Natural Monument or Feature: areas set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value.

Category IV Habitat/Species Management Area: areas that aim to protect particular species or habitats and whose management reflects this priority.

Category V Protected Landscape/ Seascape: area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant, ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.

Category VI Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources: areas that conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in a natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area.

 Some years later, in 2003, the Durban Accord, agreed at the 5th World Parks Congress held in South Africa, based the commitment to biodiversity conservation on two pillars: protected areas and human populations. The Accord establishes nine broad lines of action:

  1. Significant support to sustainable development;
  2. Significant support to biodiversity conservation;
  3. Establishment of a global system of protected areas linked to surrounding landscapes;
  4. Increased management effectiveness for protected areas;
  5. Strengthening indigenous peoples and local communities;
  6. Significant increase in support of protected areas by other sectors of society;
  7. Improved management, including traditional approaches and innovation, important for conservation;
  8. Improved management, including traditional approaches and innovation, important for conservation;
  9. mproved outreach on the role and benefits of protected areas.

The Durban Accord recommends a number of international, regional, national, local and protected area activities. The Accord also reflects the state of the art of biodiversity conservation in protected areas, revealing how important the issue of human populations and their integration into protected area management has become. The Accord also provided the basis for the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, adopted in 2004, by the Convention on Biological Diversity, one of the global conventions signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.  In 2014 the 6th World Parks Congress was held in Sydney, Australia and which concluded with the launch of the document "The Promise of Sydney" that compiles the series of recommendations adopted at the Congress and aiming to increase the implementation of conservation goals 7, 11 and 14.

Ecological Corridor

The pace at which humans change natural landscapes is thousands of times greater than the natural dynamics of ecosystems. Currently the greatest threats to the planet’s biodiversity are habitat loss and fragmentation. An option to minimize the impacts of fragmentation is to establish ecological corridors.

Os Ecological corridors can be considered as instruments of management and land use planning, legally defined by the SNUC, for the purpose of ensuring the integrity of ecological processes in the areas connecting conservation areas to other protected areas. Their function is to allow gene flow and free species dispersion between these areas, so as to prevent the ecological damage that may occur as a consequence of their isolation resulting from urban and rural networks, and to ensure the effectiveness of the areas in the long-term conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.

The ecological corridor concept was incorporated into environmental policies under the SNUC, which attributed recognition of this territorial category to the Ministry of the Environment. Ecological Corridors  re defined as sections of natural or semi-natural ecosystems that connect conservation areas, enabling the flow of genes and the movement of biota, facilitating species dispersal and recolonization of degraded areas, as well as sustaining populations that require for their survival areas larger than those of the individual areas. They seek to protect large areas by means of an integrated set of conservation areas of different categories and their respective buffer zones and ecological corridors, integrating the different activities of nature preservation, sustainable use of natural resources, and ecosystem restoration and recovery.

Following the emergence of the proposal of corridors as an important element of landscape connectivity, many studies have shown their positive effects on the movement of the species 15, while others also argue that much recolonization of fragments does not occur due to the impossibility of the colonizing species accessing these, often because of an absence of corridors16.

An example already in place is the Central Corridor of the Amazon, located  entirely in the state of Amazonas and composed of 81 protected areas - 14 federal protected areas (6 Full Protection and 8 Sustainable Use), 15 state protected areas (3 Full Protection and 12 Sustainable Use) and 52 Indigenous Lands, totalling 52 million hectares. 13

Protected Area Mosaics

A mosaic of conservation units, according to the SNUC Law2, is "a set of conservation areas of different close, juxtaposed or overlapping categories or not, and other public or private protected areas" and whose management is undertaken in a joint and integrated fashion. The Law also notes the requirement to consider the differing conservation objectives of these areas in light of the different categories to which they belong.

The idea of a mosaic of areas is very positive because, since the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity exist at scales that transcend the boundaries of conservation areas, larger tracts of territory are better able to be managed, such that the integrity of these processes can be guaranteed.

The idea of a mosaic of areas is very positive because, since the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity exist at scales that transcend the boundaries of conservation areas, larger tracts of territory are better able to be managed, such that the integrity of these processes can be guaranteed.

Which regulates the SNUC, contains a section on the management of mosaics Decree 4340/2002 3, contains a section on the management of mosaics. According to this, a set of conservation areas can only be treated as a mosaic at the request of the management bodies of the units and following its recognition by the Ministry of the Environment. Once designated a mosaic, this set of areas needs an advisory council with the responsibility of ensuring the integrated management, compatibility and optimization of the research, inspection and management of the mosaic’s areas. However, although such recognition is very important, a number of initiatives have already proven that a lot can and should be done even before official recognition of the mosaic is granted.

Since the first step in correct mosaic management is to understand the situation of others as an aspect of their perceived reality and their willingness to engage in joint work, the mere fact of an approach by the Management Councils, can straight away act as a catalyst for transformation.

Initially, the idea of a mosaic of conservation areas was widely used in the Atlantic Forest as a strategy to leverage conservation actions in a biome under severe threat and with small conservation areas. Good examples, all established in 2006, are: the Bocaina Mosaic, which covers ten conservation areas and their buffer zones, over an area of 221,754 hectares in the Paraíba do Sul valley along the south coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro and the north coast of the state of São Paulo; the Fluminense Central Atlantic Forest Mosaic, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with twenty two areas and their buffer zones covering 223,710 hectares; and the Mantiqueira Mosaic – the Mosaic of Conservation Areas of the Serra da Mantiqueira Region – which covers an area of approximately 445,615 hectares and comprises nineteen protected areas and their buffer zones in the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro17.


Currently there are fifteen officially recognized federal mosaics in Brazil. In the Legal Amazon there are seven: the Tucuruí, State Forests of the Rio Gregório Complex, Apuí, Southern Amazon, Lower Rio Negro, Western Amapá and Northern Pará, and Jalapão Protected Area Mosaics. Of these, the first three are state level mosaics. The latest mosaics to be established were the Lower Rio Negro, recognized in December 2010, Western Amapá and Northern Pará, in January 2013, do Jalapão, in October 2016 and the Mosaico da Serra do Cipó, in September 2018.

Although for the constitution of mosaics it is more common to mention Conservation Areas, the possibility of including other protected areas, already present in the SNUC definition (Article 26), has been encouraged in recent years. In the Amazonian context, the inclusion of Indigenous Lands in the design of mosaics is essential for the consolidation of legitimate territories of traditional occupation that play the role of effective biodiversity corridors and strengthen the political force of minorities in regionally and nationally important debates. The Western Amapá and Northern Pará mosaic was the first to include Indigenous Lands: the Wajãpi Indigenous Land, the Tumucumaque Park Indigenous Land, and the Rio Paru D'Este Indigenous Land.

In December 2010, ICMBio established procedures for the establishment of mosaics in the federal sphere18.


Quadro Comparativo das Categorias

Proteção Integral

  Estação Ecológica Reserva Biológica Parque Nacional Monumento Natural Refúgio da Vida Silvestre
Objetivos principais além da conservação pesquisa pesquisa e educação pesquisa e educação conservação especialmente de beleza cênica, pesquisa e educação pesquisa e educação
Processo de criação normalmente iniciado por governo governo governo governo governo
Posse de terras pública pública pública pública e privada pública e privada
Pressupõe presença de moradores? - - - sim sim
Processo de regularização inclui desapropriações de terra? sim sim sim não obrigatoriamente, apenas se o uso privado não for considerado compatível com o propósito da UC não obrigatoriamente, apenas se o uso privado não for considerado compatível com o propósito da UC
Conselho Gestor consultivo consultivo consultivo consultivo consultivo
Mineração permitida? não não não não não
Instrumentos de gestão ordinários plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor
Realização de Pesquisas depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor


Uso Sustentável

  Floresta Reserva Extrativista Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Reserva de Fauna Área de Relevante Interesse Ecológico Área Proteção Ambiental RPPN
Objetivos principais além da conservação pesquisa e produção de madeireiros e não madeireiros de espécies nativas proteção dos meios de vida e cultura da comunidade tradicional e uso sustentável dos recursos proteção dos meios de vida e cultura da comunidade tradicional e uso sustentável dos recursos pesquisas técnico-científicas sobre manejo das espécies conservaçao de relevância regional, normalmente áreas com baixa ocupação humana< ordenamento territorial, normalmente áreas com ocupação humana consolidada pesquisa, educação e ecoturismo 
Processo de criação normalmente iniciado por governo comunidade governo governo governo governo proprietário
Posse de terras pública com concessão de real de uso para a comunidade pública com concessão de real de uso  para a comunidade pública com concessão de real de uso para a comunidade e privada pública pública e privada pública e privada privada
Pressupõe presença de moradores? sim, populações tradicionais sim, populações tradicionais sim, populações tradicionais sim sim sim sim
Processo de regularização inclui desapropriações de terra? sim sim não obrigatoriamente, apenas se o uso privado não for considerado compatível com o propósito da UC sim não obrigatoriamente, apenas se o uso privado não for considerado compatível com o propósito da UC não obrigatoriamente, apenas se o uso privado não for considerado compatível com o propósito da UC não
Conselho Gestor consultivo deliberativo deliberativo não há restrições, usualmente consultivo não há restrições, usualmente consultivo não há restrições, usualmente consultivo não há, mas em caso de serem localizadas em mosaico de áreas protegidas, o proprietário tem direito a uma cadeira no Conselho do mesmo
Mineração permitida? - - - sim sim sim -
Instrumentos de gestão ordinários plano de manejo, aprovado pelo conselho e pelo órgão gestor, plano de uso e contrato de concessão florestal plano de manejo, aprovado pelo conselho e pelo órgão gestor e plano de uso plano de manejo, aprovado pelo conselho e pelo órgão gestor e plano de uso plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor plano de manejo, aprovado e publicado pelo órgão gestor
Realização de Pesquisas depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor depende de aprovação prévia do órgão gestor - -


Criteria for the creation of a conservation area

How to create?

What are the differences between the processes of establishing a National Park and a Private Reserve? Who initiates the demands and how? The approval of which administrative bodies are necessary? Understand the entire process of creating a Conservation Area through our interactive infographic.

Where to create?

Originally, the areas destined to become national parks, the first conservation areas established in the Western world, were those that possessed landscapes of exceptional beauty. The examples of the first American national parks created - Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Rainier, Zion - illustrate this criterion well. Only in the late 1940s, with the establishment of Everglades National Park, created to protect wetlands in Florida, did other criteria begin to be taken into account 19.

The development of sland biogeography theory 20 and 21, in the 1960s started a new chapter in discussions on the criteria for allocating and designing reserves. Soon after its conception, ecologists recognized its potential application for conservation and in 1975 began using the theory as their basis. Jared Diamond 22 showed that natural reserves could be considered as islands, with predictable extinction rates and that these extinction rates could reduce if protected areas were designed according to some of the principles of island biogeography theory. Thus, currently, the principles of this theory that are adopted in the management and management of protected areas 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 are:

  • arge reserves are preferable to small reserves;
  • a single reserve is better than several of an equivalent cumulative size;
  • neighbouring reserves are preferable to reserves further apart;
  • reserves grouped around a centre are better than those arranged in lines;
  • circular reserves are preferable to elongated reserves and;
  • reserves connected by corridors are preferable to non-connected reserves.

These criteria have been criticized by some scientists who claim that the theory does not directly justify a preference for large areas over small ones, and that the design of such a protected area would be unrealistic given the ecological conditions that would differentiate habitats and the distribution of species, which have different preferences for resources and interactions with the environment. Scientists and managers believe that the emphasis on species diversity under the island biogeography theory limits its applicability to reserve design, as this involves other important considerations, such as the rarity of the species and the representativity ofhabitats. The proposal for circular rather than elongated reserves and for reserves connected by corridors also provoked much discussion, culminating in an acronym: SLOSS (single large or several small - single large or several small) no Biological Dynamic of Forest Fragments Project - PDBFF.

The criticisms about the role of biogeography theory remain and subsequently other  methods have been developed for the selection and design of priority areas. For example, consideration should be given to the representativity of a set of protected areas, to ensure the maximum possible protection of biodiversity, given that there are limited resources for the management of these areas. However, generally speaking, conservation area systems provide a skewed sample of biodiversity, as many reserves have been established in remote locations, or simply in areas that do not have any other potential use.There is a growing perception that protected areas are more likely to play a key role in biodiversity conservation if they are part of a representative system, that is to say, they contain the greatest possible number of characteristic elements of biodiversity. Thus, the criteria developed in recent decades consider not only the area where a conservation area might possibly be located, but a combination of diverse areas to ensure a representative set of reserves.   

The theory of island biogeography

The theory of island biogeography was developed by MacArthur and Wilson (1963 and 1967) to explain how the number of species on an island remains approximately constant, while the taxonomic composition of this set of species changes over time. They suggested that organisms on an island are in a dynamic equilibrium; that is, while some species are colonizing the island, others are becoming extinct. According to this theory, the rate of colonization depends on the distance between the island and the source of potential colonizing species; so, the islands closest to the source have a higher rate of colonization. Extinction depends on the size of the island, i.e. smaller islands have higher rates of extinction. The authors proposed that the rates of colonization and of extinction, when considered simultaneously, provide a predictable number of species in equilibrium, maintained over time, and a turnover rate of species that is also predictable and maintained over time.

From its original proposition, the theory has undergone some transformations that have linked the rate of colonization to the size of the island and the extinction rate to the distance from the potential source of colonizers, since the immigration of individuals of a species that is already present on the island may slow down local species extinction 24 and 25.

Another method for the selection of new areas for the conservation of biodiversity, developed in the 1990s, takes into account regional scale and representativity and is based on three principles: complementarity, flexibility and rarity. Complementarity refers to a strategy of prior checks on the objectives of other protected areas in the region in order to select an area whose characteristics are complementary to those of these other areas. This principle is important because, in most places, the areas that can be used for conservation are limited. Flexibility refers to ways that sites can be combined to create a representative sample of protected areas. The existence of such combinations allows room for negotiation and, if possible, for averting conflicts. Finally, rarity measures the potential of a site to contribute to the conservation goal. This principle addresses the frequency with which important sites for biodiversity conservation occur in each of the combinations that make up a representative set of reserves, in other words the extent to which the area in question is irreplaceable.

These principles should take into account factors such as the viability of the populations found in the reserves. Additionally, the definition of representation should not be limited to the types of soil and vegetation or to populations of species but should consider the temporal and spatial dynamics that influence the landscapes and people. Other methods of delineating areas also take into account, in addition to these three principles, taxonomic diversity, threats to area integrity, costs and regional land use. While many deserve further examination, what needs to be emphasized is that the idea of regional planning and the concern with representativity are present in all of them 26, 27 and 28.

These methods of systematic conservation planning represent milestones in the selection of sites for the establishment of new protected areas, beginning in the year 2000 26, 27, 29, 30 and 31.  Such planning provides a theoretical-methodological framework for selecting and designing protected areas, broken down into six steps:

  1. measuring and mapping biodiversity;
  2. identification of the conservation objectives of the region;
  3. review of existing reserves;
  4. selection of additional protected areas;
  5. implementation of conservation activities; and
  6. management and monitoring of reserves.

The method, designed by Australian researchers, and the analysis developed in the United States to identify gaps in the set of natural reserves, represent milestones in the history of site selection for the establishment of new protected areas, initiating an era that prioritises the systematic planning of biodiversity conservation19.

The first step, the measurement and mapping of biodiversity, runs up against the still limited knowledge of biodiversity. Biological systems are organized hierarchically, from the molecular level to ecosystems, and their levels of organization - individuals, populations, species, communities, ecosystems - are heterogeneous. Faced with this complexity, while acknowledging that maintaining it is the objective of conservation, one must use existing knowledge and partially estimate biodiversity to assess similarities or differences between the areas to be analyzed. One method that has been widely used is the designation of a group of species, for example vascular plants, vertebrates or butterflies, as indicators of biodiversity in the area. Despite the popularity of this method, inferring the total diversity of a community (individuals of different species coexisting in space and time) on the basis of one or a few groups is questionable.

The use of other hierarchical levels of organization, such as sets of species habitat types and ecosystems, are less biologically accurate but offer other advantages, as they can better reflect ecological processes for the maintenance of ecosystem functions. The conclusion is that the decision as to what information and methods to use to estimate the biodiversity of the area depends on several factors, including the availability of data, and will be different in each case. Other information, such as ownership and occupation of lands, roads, rivers and threats to the integrity of the region, should also be collected and considered.

The second step, identification of the conservation objectives of the region, consists in translating the representativity and the persistence of the reserves into more specific and, if possible, quantitative objectives. These objectives permit the evaluation of existing protected areas and the conservation value of areas during the process of selecting new reserves.

The third step, linked to the fourth, denotes the need to evaluate existing reserves for the selection of additional protected areas. Evaluating how much of the conservation goal has been achieved by existing areas is essential for defining the best strategy for the new areas. The methods developed for this are known as representative gap analysis. By clicking here, you can find a summary of the global gap analysis conducted by the ‘Center for Applied Biodiversity Science', research centre linked to Conservation International.

The next step, the selection of additional protected areas, can count on a very effective decision-making tool. These are algorithms that can be used to evaluate different situations, such as the inclusion or not of certain areas, the cost of acquisition and the opportunity costs of other uses. This tool provides a basis for negotiation, since it allows the concrete evaluation of the various allocation and design options of new conservation areas.

The fifth step, the implementation of conservation activities, requires a completely different set of activities. It implies bringing together different people, agencies, institutions and commercial interests. This is the time where the proponent of the area, armed with the various allocation and design options provided by the technical tools, starts negotiating, mapping and reducing the conflicts that will inevitably arise at this stage.

Finally, the management and reserve monitoring activities. This stage is fundamental, although it is not part of the process of selection and design of the areas, because this is where the problems will arise, often deriving from the process of selection and design of the area. Some considerations may reduce governance and management issues, such as the delimitation of the area respecting the natural boundaries of river basins, the maintenance of species migration routes, negotiation with neighbours, and initiatives to involve the resident populations in the surrounding area.

There are other initiatives and methodologies used by different institutions (BOX 2), as in the case  of WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature), which developed a global framework for biodiversity conservation planning based on ecoregions 26, i.e. "relatively large areas of land and water that contain geographically distinct sets of natural communities that share the vast majority of their species, dynamics and environmental conditions and function effectively together as a conservation unit on a continental and global scale". Other organizations such as CI (Conservation International) use differentiated approaches such as “hotspots” referring to regions that harbour a high diversity of endemic species and which are at the same time significantly impacted and altered by human activities. We can also highlight global centres of bird endemism, as used by Birdlife International 26, 27 and 28.

Finally,  another process commonly adopted for the definition of priority areas is the consultation of specialists in certain taxonomic groups 29. Studies show that this approach should be complementary to systematic planning, as it considers certain parameters such as issues related to the management and implementation of the areas, which are not measured by the systematic approach. On the other hand, the use of specialists introduces a bias derived from unequal knowledge of regions and taxa.

Global Gap Analysi

This analysis 27 aims to assess the adequacy of the worldwide network of protected areas for the purpose of guiding their consolidation and future expansion. For its realization, data were used from the ‘World Database on Protected Areas’ World Database on Protected Areas which holds more than 100,000 records; and species distribution maps, with 11,171 species, of which 1,183 globally threatened birds; 4,734 mammals, of which 978 threatened; and 5,254 amphibians, of which 1,467 threatened.

To evaluate the areas, two parameters were used: rarity, that is, how much the area in question is irreplaceable, and degree of threat. Places considered irreplaceable and with an exceptional degree of threat were identified as priorities. The results show that the worldwide network of protected areas is far from reaching full coverage of vertebrate species and can be summarized as follows:

  1. There are no conservation areas in the distribution areas of at least 1,310 species - of which 831 are at risk of extinction;
  2. Amphibians are less protected than birds and mammals;
  3. The areas identified as priorities for the establishment of new conservation areas and for the consolidation of existing ones are largely located in tropical forests and islands;
  4. Asia is the priority continent for the expansion of protected areas;
  5. In Africa and South America, the priority is to consolidate existing conservation areas;
  6. The total number of protected areas in each country is not an accurate indicator as to how much still needs to be protected in conservation areas. The study in question points to endemism as a more appropriate indicator.

Other Protected Areas

The SNUC, established by Federal Law 9985/20002, regulated by Federal Decree 4340/2002 3 and duly complemented by relevant state legislation, legislates on "territorial spaces and their resources legally established with  limits defined by public authority for conservation purposes". However, it is important to note that Brazilian legislation also recognizes the concept of 'Protected Area', which  brings together, in addition to conservation areas, Indigenous Territories and Quilombola Territories within a socio-environmental framework.

With the publication of Federal Decree 5758/2006, the National Strategic Plan for Protected Areas (PNAP) was established, an acknowledgment that ensuring the territorial rights of quilombola communities and indigenous peoples, given their way of life, contributed to conservation; in other words, that these territories are complementary to conservation areas with regard to their role in conservation, as well as by valuing the ethical, ethnic, cultural, aesthetic and symbolic aspects of the conservation of the national natural heritage and protecting the national public interest. After all, all these territories contribute to the supply of fresh air and drinking water in large and medium-sized human settlements, store carbon, are reserves of biotechnology and drugs, contribute to the reduction of the risks and consequences of extreme events such as floods, storms and rising sea levels, contribute to guaranteeing the country’s food sovereignty and boosting the local, regional and national economy, among other things.

In addition, since environmental sustainability is a premise of national development, adopting an integrated ecosystem-based approach to protected area management would contribute to the fair and equitable sharing of conservation costs and benefits, ensuring improved quality of life, poverty eradication, reduction of regional inequalities and promotion of sustainable management. The PNAP was developed taking into account the provisions of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity: the importance of  developing strategies to establish a comprehensive, ecologically representative and effectively managed system of protected areas, presupposing, in addition to facilitating the gene flow of natural populations between protected areas, security and national defence aspects.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a protected area is "an area with defined and recognized geographical limits, whose purpose and management seek to achieve the conservation of nature, its ecosystem services and associated cultural values through legal, or other effective means”. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the international conventions signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro has the following definition of a protected area: "a geographically defined area that is destined, or regulated, and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives".”

In Brazil, over and above the PNAP, the term 'protected area' is commonly used. This is because in Brazilian legislation there is no single concept for the term, used in different contexts and with specific meanings. For example, gallery forest, a type of permanent preservation area guaranteed by the Forest Law, and archaeological sites, despite their very distinct conceptual and legal scope, are both examples of protected areas: the latter is related to the recording of traces of activities of humans living before the beginning of our civilization, while the former is indispensable to the stability of fragile zones.

It is important to emphasize that in Brazil, in addition to indigenous peoples and quilombola communities, who have their own legally prescribed procedures for administrative recognition of their territories, with established bodies and specially trained teams to speed up the technical procedures for recognition and demarcation of their territories, there are many traditional communities whose territories have not yet been recognized.

The National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Traditional Peoples and Communities, instituted shortly after the PNAP in 2007, is an important ally in giving visibility to the rights of these communities and to the lack of compliance with legal policy provisions. According to federal policy, Traditional Peoples and Communities are culturally differentiated groups that recognize themselves as such, have their own forms of social organization, occupy and use territories and natural resources as the basis for their cultural, social, religious, ancestral and economic reproduction, using knowledge, innovations and practices generated and transmitted by tradition. Their traditional territories, in turn, are spaces necessary for their cultural, social and economic reproduction, whether used permanently or temporarily.

The National Council of Traditional Peoples and Communities (CNPCT) is a collegiate body of an advisory nature originating from the National Commission of Traditional Peoples and Communities, previously linked to the structure of the Ministry of the Environment, and, in 2018, through Federal Decree No. 9,465. The main purpose of the Council is to promote the sustainable development of traditional peoples and communities with a view to recognizing, strengthening and guaranteeing their rights, including territorial, socio-environmental, economic and cultural rights, customs, traditional knowledge, ancestral knowledge, knowledge and practices, their forms of organization and institutions. During the process of instituting the CNPCT, although they are recognized as constituting only a sample of Brazil's socio-cultural heritage, representations were made to the following segments of the Brazilian population: indigenous peoples and  quilombola communities, pterreiro peoples and communities / peoples and communities of African descent, Romani people, artisanal fishers,  extrativistas,  extractivists, coastal and marine extractivists,  caiçaras,  faxinalenses,  benzedeiros,  island dwellers,  raizeiros,  geraizeiros,  caatingueiros,  vazanteiros,  veredeiros,  dried flower collectors, pantaneiros,  morroquianos,  Pomeranians,  mangaba gatherers,  babaçu coconut shellers,  Araguaia retireiros, fundos e fechos de pasto communities, riverine communities,  cipozeiros,  andirobeiros, caboclos  and the youths of traditional peoples and communities.


Indigenous Territories

In Brazil, when we refer to Indigenous Lands, we must bear in mind, first of all, the definition and some of the legal concepts contained in the 1988 Federal Constitution and in specific legislation, especially in the so-called Statute of the Indian (Law 6,001/73), currently under review by the National Congress.
The 1988 Constitution enshrines the principle that indigenous peoples are the first and natural masters of the land. This is the primary source of their right, which precedes any other. Consequently, the right of the indigenous group to a given land does not depend on formal recognition.
The definition of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples is found in the first paragraph of article 231 of the Federal Constitution: these are those lands "permanently inhabited by them, those used for their productive activities, those indispensable to the preservation of the environmental resources necessary for their wellbeing and their physical and cultural reproduction, in accordance with their uses, customs and traditions".
Article 20 establishes that these lands are federal assets, where the indigenous community is granted rights to permanent occupation and to exclusive use of the riches of the soil, rivers and lakes they contain.
Nevertheless, the Constitution also determines that government is obliged to confirm this recognition. Whenever an indigenous community occupies a given area in conformity with article 231, the state will have to delimit it and carry out the physical demarcation of its boundaries. The Constitution itself established a deadline for the demarcation of all Indigenous Lands (TIs): October 5, 1993. However, this deadline was not met and currently TIs in Brazil are to be found with differing legal status.
Many Indigenous Lands in Brazil are experiencing illegal incursions by miners, fishers, hunters, loggers and squatters. Others are criss-crossed by roads, railways and transmission lines or have been partially flooded by hydroelectric plants. Frequently, indigenous peoples suffer the negative impacts of what happens beyond their boundaries, in the surrounding regions: river pollution by pesticides, deforestation, etc.
Read more about Indigenous Lands on the site Indigenous Lands in Brazil and Indigenous People in Brazil by clicking here.


* Originally published on the site Indigenous Peoples in Brazil


Quilombola Territories

Territories of survivors of quilombos

Text prepared with the collaboration of Rosely and Mayara Martins (University of Campinas)

The word "quilombo" comes from the African Quimbundo language, meaning "a society formed by young warriors who belonged to the uprooted ethnic groups of their communities"

The Territory of Survivors of a Quilombola Community is a consolidation of the achievements of the afrodescendant community in Brazil, a product of the resistance to the slave-based model established in colonial Brazil and the recognition of this grave historical injustice. As well as arising from former quilombos of escaped slaves, it is important to understand that many such communities arose in lands derived from bequests, donations, payment in exchange for services rendered, or land purchases, during the existence of slavery and after its abolition 32 e 33. Whatever their origins, these communities have established roots, have remained in place almost invisibly and have recovered or rebuilt subsistence livelihood systems and worldviews that translate into a wealth of traditional knowledge, cultural manifestations, music and cuisine.

Survivors of quilombos are defined as ethnic-racial groups endowed with specific historical and territorial relations, with a presumption of black ancestry, and their characterization is granted in accordance with criteria of self-attribution certified by the communities themselves, as provided for by the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 32, 33, 34 e 35. Thus, the so-called quilombo survivor community is a relatively recent social category and represents an important social force in the Brazilian rural world, fighting for the right to title to its lands, as enshrined since 1988 in the Federal Constitution. The table below lists the number of communities by state, updated to 2018 36.

Southern region 178 Northern region 356 Northeastern Region 1.920
Rio Grande do Sul 127 Pará 255 Maranhão 708
Santa Catarina 13 Tocantins 45 Bahia 750
Paraná 38 Amapá 40 Piauí 87
Southeastern region 448 Rondônia 8 Pernambuco 156
Minas Gerais 313 Amazonas 08 Ceará 50
São Paulo 55 Centre-west region 143 Rio Grande do Norte 26
Espírito Santo 42 Mato Grosso 73 Alagoas 68
Rio de Janeiro 38 Goiás 48 Sergipe 36
- - Mato Grosso do Sul 22 Paraíba 39

Fonte: INCRA julho/2018.

Recognition of Quilombola Territories

The Constitution considers Brazilian cultural heritage to be its the forms of expression; its modes of creation, doing and living; its scientific, artistic and technological creations; its works, objects,  documents, buildings and other spaces destined to artistic and cultural expressions; and (..) sites of historical, landscape,  artistic, archaeological, paleontological, ecological and scientific value,  guaranteeing the full exercise of cultural rights and assigning responsibility to the State for the support, protection, appreciation and diffusion of the cultural expressions of indigenous, Afro-Brazilian and other participants in the national civilizational process.

Although the Federal Constitution of Brazil had since 1988 defined the material and immaterial assets of the different formative groups of Brazilian society as Brazilian cultural heritage, it was the Transitional Constitutional Provisions Act that recognized the right of quilombolas to obtain definitive ownership of their land, with the State required to issue them with the respective titles 38. However, it was only in 2003, through Federal Decree No. 4.8878, that the procedure for the identification, recognition, delimitation, demarcation and titling of lands occupied by survivors of quilombos was regulated, with INCRA as the responsible body at the federal level and the respective land agencies at state and municipal levels.

The identification of the boundaries of community land is based on a joint evaluation of community demands and technical and scientific studies, including anthropological reports to include spatial, economic, environmental and socio-cultural characterization of the territory occupied by the community (Art. 9). Although the regulations at the federal level were only enacted in 2003, some states had advanced further than the federal level in this respect; for example, in 1999 the state of Pará already had in place a procedure for legal recognition of the rights to land of survivors of quilombo communities, in the form of State Decree No. 3,572 of 1999 36, 38 and 39.

Currently, the existence of quilombo communities is recognized in 24 Brazilian states, covering a total area of 3,357,968.12 hectares, containing 43,153 quilombo families. CAbout 3,045 quilombola communities in Brazil have already been certified by the Fundação Palmares 36 and more than 365 applications have been lodged with INCRA (242) and state agencies (123), pending completion of documentation or technical certification visits, all fighting for ownership of their land.

Official recognition brings quilombos out of their historical invisibility and transforms them into bearers of rights. The slowness in the titling process, however, exposes these populations to all kinds of conflicting interests, stirring up conflicts and placing the lives of quilombolas at risk. As the titling rate declines, the number of cases of murders, illegal incursions, burned houses, destroyed lands, and evictions increases, affecting even those few communities with land already titled. Another challenge related to quilombola territories is the overlap with other protected areas, such as Conservation Areas.

Vale do Ribeira: Quilombola territories in the Ribeira Valley
The Ribeira Valley connects the southwest of the state of São Paulo and the northeast of the state of Paraná. In the 16th century, mining expeditions began moving from the southern coast of the state of São Paulo to the interior of the Ribeira Valley, taking with them indigenous people and some black slaves 36 and 40. This vast area was declared by UNESCO as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1999 and covers 2.1 million hectares of forest, 150,000 of restinga and 17,000 of mangrove.

Quilombolas have inhabited and managed the Atlantic forest of Ribeira for more than 300 years. It is no accident that the Ribeira Valley is the largest remnant of unbroken Atlantic Forest: of the remaining 7% of the Mata Atlântica biome in Brazil, 21% is found in the Ribeira Valley. The valley is home to rich socio-biodiversity and contains more than 80 quilombola communities. In addition, the region has 40 Conservation Areas; it contains important water courses. Over this period, different economic cycles, sociocultural values ​​and patterns of spatial occupation have been superimposed on each other, resulting in the hybrid makeup of the current landscape of the Ribeira Valley. This socio-environmental richness is highlighted by the historical and cultural diversity that can be seen by the identification of 180 cultural assets in 16 quilombola communities of the Ribeira Valley brought together in the Cultural Inventory of Quilombos of Vale do Ribeira 36, published by Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).

Throughout their existence, in order to survive in the Valley, the quilombolas have practiced an itinerant agriculture, inherited from the indigenous people that inhabited the same region, that they call “roça de coivara” (swidden agriculture) and that is known by different names in other tropical regions.  It has been an agriculture practice of traditional peoples and communities for millennia.  Today, this same practice, which reconciles production and conservation, feeds the quilombolas and other families who receive food produced through institutional programmes such as the Food Acquisition Programme (PAA) and the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE).

See Quilombola Territories in the Ribeira Valley on the site created by quilombola communities, with support and advice from the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).



Overlapping in numbers

Authors: Fany Pantaleoni Ricardo (anthropologist, coordinator of the Programme for Monitoring Protected Areas, ISA) and Silvia de Melo Futada (biologist and MSc. in Ecology, ISA).

Published originally in the book Indigenous Peoples in Brazil 2011/2016, updated in September 2018.

In 2018, there were 77 cases of territorial overlap involving 61 Indigenous Lands and 57 Conservation Areas (37 federal and 20 state), covering almost 11.4 million hectares, and corresponding to 9.7% of the total area of Indigenous Lands in Brazil. The vast majority of cases are in the Legal Amazon (51) and the remainder are shared between the South-Southeast (19) and Northeast (07) regions. Of the total number of Conservation Areas involved, 33 are Full Protection areas: 14 National Parks (Parnas), 9 State Parks (PESs), 4 Ecological Stations (Esecs), 5 Biological Reserves (Rebios), 1 Ecological Reserve (Resec) and a Wildlife Refuge (RVS). A further 23 are Sustainable Use areas: seven Extractive Reserves (Resex), one Ecological Reserve (Resec), nine National Forests (Flonas), three State Forests (FES) and three Areas of Special Environmental Importance (ARIE).

Full protection

Most of the overlapping cases involving Full Protection Conservation Areas are leftovers from the mid twentieth century, when this type of protected area was created without proper survey of human occupation, or even without considering the rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional populations. At the same time, it was common for indigenous peoples with little contact with Brazilian society to be considered an integral part of the nature to be preserved, because their way of life was considered to be of very low impact.

In the Legal Amazon, there are 22 Indigenous Lands superimposed on 20 Full Protection Conservation Areas, both federal (13) and state (07). Of these, only four areas (two federal and two state) were created after 2000, when the National System of Conservation Areas (SNUC) was established. Although the SNUC provided for the creation of a working group, involving agencies responsible for implementing environmental and indigenous affairs policies, to regularize overlaps, the great milestone of this field was the decision of the Protected Areas of the Amazon Programme (Arpa), launched in 2002, not to support the creation of protected areas until all outstanding issues with the lands and indigenous peoples affecting the area had been resolved.

In northern Mato Grosso, the Apiaká do Pontal e Isolados Indigenous Land - identified and delimited in 2011 in a process started in 2008 – almost entirely overlaps (97%) the Juruena National Park created in 2006,  and partially overlaps (10.9%) the Apiacás Ecological Reserve created in 1992. In the east of the same state, the Wedezé Indigenous Land of the Xavante people was identified in 2011 with a small portion (8%) superimposed on the Quelônios do Araguaia Wildlife Refuge. On the border of the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, near Porto Velho, the Jacareúba/Katawixi Restricted Use Area - instituted in 2007 by FUNAI for the protection of a people in voluntary isolation near the Madeira River Hydroelectric Complex - was almost completely overlapped (96%) the following year by the Mapinguari National Park. In northern Pará, the Grão-Pará Ecological Station, created in 2009, started overlapping the Kaxuyana-Tunayana Indigenous Land, containing isolated indigenous people and identified and delimited in 2015, when the process for its establishment began in 2008.

Outside the Legal Amazon region, there are 21 cases involving 20 Indigenous Lands superimposed on 14 Full Protection Conservation Areas, six of which are  federal and eight state. Among the eight state areas, created between 1961 and 1995, six are in the state of São Paulo, in the region between the state capital, the coast and the Ribeira Valley –  one on the coast of Santa Catarina and one in Minas Gerais, the Riachão/Luiza do Vale Indigenous Domain. The Serra do Mar State Park, created in 1977, for example, is superimposed on six different Indigenous Lands occupied by the Guarani Mbya people. In recent years in the São Paulo metropolitan region, a similar overlap was created between the Jaraguá State Park, created in 1961, and the Jaraguá Indigenous Land, also occupied by the Guarani, which was approved by Funai in 2013 and declared by the Ministry of Justice in 2015.

In the Northeast region, three of the four cases of overlap between Indigenous Lands and Full Protection Conservation Areas are in Bahia. The Barra Velha Indigenous Land of the Pataxó people, approved in 1991, is superimposed in its entirety on the Monte Pascoal National Park, created in 1961. In addition, the Barra Velha of Monte Pascoal Indigenous Land, a revised area of the Barra Velha Indigenous Land identified in 2014, partially overlaps (30%) the same Conservation Area. As well as these two, the case has recently arisen of the territorial overlap between the Descobrimento National Park, created in 1999, and part (14%) of the Comexatiba (Cahy-Pequi) Indigenous Land, also of the Pataxó people, identified by Funai in 2015 in a process starting in 2005. In 2017, two further cases of territorial overlaps were officially instituted. In Pernambuco, the Pipipã Indigenous Land of just over 63,000 hectares was identified. As a consequence, the Serra Negra Biological Reserve of 627 hectares was completely overlapped by the Indigenous Land. The Biological Reserve represents less than 1% of the area of the Indigenous Land. In the municipality of Parati, state of Rio de Janeiro, the Tekoha Jevy Indigenous Land was identified, with a superimposition over the Serra da Bocaina National Park of 1,426 hectares, representing about 62% of its total area and 1.3% of the area of the Park.

Sustainable use

The vast majority of the cases of territorial overlap between Indigenous Lands and Sustainable Use Conservation Areas can be found in the Legal Amazon: 26 cases involving 22 Indigenous Lands and 19 Conservation Areas – thirteen federal and six state. Of these, 13 (11 Indigenous Lands, 8 National Forests and 3 State Forests) involve areas that, although allowing, since the entry into force of the SNUC in 2000, traditional populations to remain, are primarily aimed at commercial logging, an activity incompatible the status of Indigenous Land.

It should be pointed out that four of the Conservation Areas in this category partially overlap three Indigenous Lands of populations in voluntary isolation: the Yanomami (Roraima), Kaxuyana-Tunayana (Pará) and Riozinho do Envira (Acre). Added to these cases, there are a further three Indigenous Lands for isolated peoples, regularized between 2007 and 2016, that are partially superimposed on two Extractive Reserves. These are: the Jacareúba-Katawixi Indigenous Land (Amazonas) overlapping 19% of the Ituxi Extractive Reserve and the Pirifikura and Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Lands (both in Mato Grosso), which respectively overlap 1.5% and 0.6% of the Guariba Roosevelt Extractive Reserve.

Currently, in the region of the middle Solimões and its tributaries (Amazonas), four Indigenous Lands (Acapuri de Cima, Porto Praia, Jaquiri and Uati-Paraná) identified between 1990 and 2000, are totally or almost totally superimposed on the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve. This was the first area in this category, recategorized in 1996 from the Ecological Station of the same name created in 1990 for the purpose of full nature protection. Since that time, several communities generically classified as riverine, fishers or caboclos have come to self-identify as indigenous peoples. Currently, according to a survey by Deborah Lima and Rafael Barbi (see the Solimões chapter), there are around 10,000 indigenous members of at least ten indigenous peoples: Kambeba/Omágua, Kokama, Kaixana, Kanamari, Katukina, Madiha/K ulina, Mayoruna, Miranha, Mura, and Ticuna. The survey also reveals that the four Indigenous Lands referred to above are only a small part of the thirty Indigenous Lands called for by approximately 45 communities and villages distributed throughout the Mamirauá and Amanã Sustainable Development Reserves and the Auati-Paraná Extractive Reserve.

A similar situation exists in the Lower Tapajós and Arapiuns (Pará) regions, which include two Mundouruku Indigenous Lands in 2016 - Taquara and Bragança/Marituba - which are totally superimposed on the Tapajós National Forest - the first area of this type to be created in Brazil in 1974. These Indigenous Lands are linked to communities that came to identify as indigenous in mid-1998. There are still 14 Indigenous Lands demanded and for which no official steps have been taken, eight of these are within the Tapajós Arapiuns Extractive Reserve. There are about 7,000 indigenous people in the region, belonging to 12 peoples - Apiaká, Arapium, Arara Vermelha, Borari, Cara Preta, Jaraqui, Kumaruara, Maytapu, Munduruku, Tapajó, Tupaiu and Tupinambá.

Beyond the Legal Amazon there are five cases of overlap involving five Indigenous Lands and four Sustainable Use Conservation Areas. In Paraíba, the Manguezais da Foz do Rio Mamanguape Area of Special Ecological Importance (ARIE) created in 1985 overlaps 1.9% of the area of the Potiguara Indigenous Land, approved in 1991 (having been declared in 1983) and 14% of the Potiguara de Monte-Mor Indigenous Land, both inhabited by Potiguara people. Because it can comprise both public or private land, an ARIE does not in principle constitute one of the most conflictual forms of overlap. In Ceará, the Lagoa Encantada Indigenous Land of the Jenipapo-Canindé people, declared in 2011 following a process initiated in 1997, overlaps 82% of the Batoque Extractive Reserve created in 2003. The other two cases are located in the south of Brazil. In Santa Catarina, the Ibirama - La Klãnõ Indigenous Land of the Guarani, Kaingang and Xokleng peoples, declared in 2003 following a process begun in 1997 to review the boundaries of a small area reserved by the former Indian Protection Service (SPI) in 1927, has 9% of its area superimposed on the Serra da Abelha ARIE created in 1996. In Rio Grande do Sul, the Mato Castelhano-Fág Ty Ka Indigenous Land of the Kaingang, identified in 2016 following a process started in 2009, overlaps a tiny part (1.3%) of the Passo Fundo National Forest.


Read More


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