International Institute for Sustainability

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

International Institute for Sustainability

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Lapola D.M.,São Paulo State University | Martinelli L.A.,University of Sao Paulo | Peres C.A.,University of East Anglia | Ometto J.P.H.B.,National Institute for Space Research | And 13 more authors.
Nature Climate Change | Year: 2014

Agriculture, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and local/regional climate change have been closely intertwined in Brazil. Recent studies show that this relationship has been changing since the mid 2000s, with the burgeoning intensification and commoditization of Brazilian agriculture. On one hand, this accrues considerable environmental dividends including a pronounced reduction in deforestation (which is becoming decoupled from agricultural production), resulting in a decrease of ∼40% in nationwide greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, and a potential cooling of the climate at the local scale. On the other hand, these changes in the land-use system further reinforce the long-established inequality in land ownership, contributing to rural-urban migration that ultimately fuels haphazard expansion of urban areas. We argue that strong enforcement of sector-oriented policies and solving long-standing land tenure problems, rather than simply waiting for market self-regulation, are key steps to buffer the detrimental effects of agricultural intensification at the forefront of a sustainable pathway for land use in Brazil. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Strassburg B.B.N.,International Institute for Sustainability | Strassburg B.B.N.,Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro | Latawiec A.E.,International Institute for Sustainability | Latawiec A.E.,Opole University of Technology | And 8 more authors.
Global Environmental Change | Year: 2014

Providing food and other products to a growing human population while safeguarding natural ecosystems and the provision of their services is a significant scientific, social and political challenge. With food demand likely to double over the next four decades, anthropization is already driving climate change and is the principal force behind species extinction, among other environmental impacts. The sustainable intensification of production on current agricultural lands has been suggested as a key solution to the competition for land between agriculture and natural ecosystems. However, few investigations have shown the extent to which these lands can meet projected demands while considering biophysical constraints. Here we investigate the improved use of existing agricultural lands and present insights into avoiding future competition for land. We focus on Brazil, a country projected to experience the largest increase in agricultural production over the next four decades and the richest nation in terrestrial carbon and biodiversity. Using various models and climatic datasets, we produced the first estimate of the carrying capacity of Brazil's 115 million hectares of cultivated pasturelands. We then investigated if the improved use of cultivated pasturelands would free enough land for the expansion of meat, crops, wood and biofuel, respecting biophysical constraints (i.e., terrain, climate) and including climate change impacts. We found that the current productivity of Brazilian cultivated pasturelands is 32-34% of its potential and that increasing productivity to 49-52% of the potential would suffice to meet demands for meat, crops, wood products and biofuels until at least 2040, without further conversion of natural ecosystems. As a result up to 14.3Gt CO2 Eq could be mitigated. The fact that the country poised to undergo the largest expansion of agricultural production over the coming decades can do so without further conversion of natural habitats provokes the question whether the same can be true in other regional contexts and, ultimately, at the global scale. © 2014 The Authors.


Berenguer E.,Lancaster University | Ferreira J.,Embrapa Amazonia Oriental | Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | Gardner T.A.,International Institute for Sustainability | And 9 more authors.
Global Change Biology | Year: 2014

Tropical rainforests store enormous amounts of carbon, the protection of which represents a vital component of efforts to mitigate global climate change. Currently, tropical forest conservation, science, policies, and climate mitigation actions focus predominantly on reducing carbon emissions from deforestation alone. However, every year vast areas of the humid tropics are disturbed by selective logging, understory fires, and habitat fragmentation. There is an urgent need to understand the effect of such disturbances on carbon stocks, and how stocks in disturbed forests compare to those found in undisturbed primary forests as well as in regenerating secondary forests. Here, we present the results of the largest field study to date on the impacts of human disturbances on above and belowground carbon stocks in tropical forests. Live vegetation, the largest carbon pool, was extremely sensitive to disturbance: forests that experienced both selective logging and understory fires stored, on average, 40% less aboveground carbon than undisturbed forests and were structurally similar to secondary forests. Edge effects also played an important role in explaining variability in aboveground carbon stocks of disturbed forests. Results indicate a potential rapid recovery of the dead wood and litter carbon pools, while soil stocks (0-30 cm) appeared to be resistant to the effects of logging and fire. Carbon loss and subsequent emissions due to human disturbances remain largely unaccounted for in greenhouse gas inventories, but by comparing our estimates of depleted carbon stocks in disturbed forests with Brazilian government assessments of the total forest area annually disturbed in the Amazon, we show that these emissions could represent up to 40% of the carbon loss from deforestation in the region. We conclude that conservation programs aiming to ensure the long-term permanence of forest carbon stocks, such as REDD+, will remain limited in their success unless they effectively avoid degradation as well as deforestation. © 2014 The Authors.


Brancalion P.H.S.,University of Sao Paulo | Viani R.A.G.,University of Campinas | Strassburg B.B.N.,International Institute for Sustainability | Rodrigues R.R.,University of Sao Paulo
Unasylva | Year: 2012

The article discusses the economic dimension of ecological restoration drawing on experiences in the Brazilian Atlantic forest, which is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and also one of the richest in endemism. The looming land crisis has been receiving increasing attention worldwide. In this context, forest restoration could be seen as just another factor in the demand for land, with the potential to reduce food production, increase food prices and have other unwanted consequences. Centuries of deforestation and forest degradation have compromised the delivery of ecosystem services and the production of forest goods in the Atlantic forest. Nevertheless, the region presents a huge opportunity for new approaches to ecological restoration and for establishing forest restoration as an economically viable practice. The Atlantic forest has been exploited to the point where it no longer supplies significant quantities of timber.


Krolczyk J.B.,Opole University of Technology | Latawiec A.E.,Opole University of Technology | Latawiec A.E.,International Institute for Sustainability | Latawiec A.E.,University of East Anglia | Kubon M.,Agricultural University of Krakow
Polish Journal of Environmental Studies | Year: 2014

Poland represents a country with relatively low agricultural productivity but high potential, particularly for certain crops. The aim of our study was to: (i) Show the potential to increase crop yields to sustainable levels of wheat and rapeseed in Poland based on simulations in the Global Agro-Ecological Zones (GAEZ v3.0) model (ii) Show the yield gap for wheat and rapeseed for Poland (iii) Compare yield gaps in Poland with yield gaps of neighbouring counties: Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia (iv) Discuss the potential of agricultural productivity increase along with challenges and pragmatic requirements associated with increasing agricultural productivity in Poland To our knowledge, this is the first study that discusses spatially sustainable intensification of agriculture in Poland and critically assesses opportunities pertinent to such intensification. The results show that Polish agriculture can play an important role in contributing to sustainable agricultural productivity increase in a resource-constrained world. The results presented here also demonstrate that yields can even be doubled, yet significant investment and relevant know-how for agriculture must be provided.


Latawiec A.E.,International Institute for Sustainability | Latawiec A.E.,Opole University of Technology | Latawiec A.E.,University of East Anglia | Strassburg B.B.N.,International Institute for Sustainability | And 6 more authors.
Land Use Policy | Year: 2014

National and transboundary adverse effects of competition for land are being increasingly recognized by researchers and decision-makers, however the consideration of these impacts within national planning strategies is not yet commonplace. To estimate how increasing agricultural production can be conciliated with protection of natural resources at the national scale, we analyzed current land use in Suriname, and investigated opportunities for, and constraints to developing a sustainable agricultural sector.Suriname is a remarkable case study. To date, Suriname has retained most of its natural resources with forest areas covering over 90% of the country. Surinamese forests combine extremely high levels of both biodiversity and carbon, making them top priority from a global ecosystem services perspective. Among other national and international pressures from increased demand for agricultural products, the country is also considering significant expansion of agricultural output to both diminish imports and become a 'bread basket' for the Caribbean region, which collectively may pose risks to natural resources.In this study, combining locally-obtained primary data, expert consultation and secondary data from the Food and Agriculture Organization we analyzed a range of scenarios, we show the complexities associated with current land management and we discuss alternatives for developing a sustainable agricultural sector in Suriname. We show that Suriname can increase the production of rice, which is the most important agricultural activity in the country, without expanding rice area. Rather, future increase in rice production could be promoted through an increase in rice productivity, and the employment of more environmentally-favorable management methods, in order to both diminish pollution and avoid encroachment of the agriculture into pristine areas. Further, we show a potential to both contribute to greening of the agricultural sector and to higher economic returns through expanding the production of 'safe food' and through possible development of organic agriculture in Suriname.If Suriname develops a 'greener' agricultural sector, it may both increase economic returns from the agricultural sector and benefit from continuing protection of natural resources. Because most of Suriname forests present top levels of carbon and biodiversity, the country could benefit from so-called 'early-action' Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) finance, which is already being paid mostly through bilateral agreements. Further, by adopting land-use planning that protects natural resources, Suriname may be in extraordinary position to benefit from both improved-quality agricultural production and from incentives to conserve forest carbon and biodiversity, such as payments for ecosystem services. Given the high stakes and the severe lack of both primary data and applied analyses in Suriname, further research focused on better informing land-use policies would be a valuable investment for the country. Although this analysis was performed for Suriname, conclusions drawn here are transferrable and may assist formulation of policy recommendations for land use elsewhere. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | Gardner T.A.,International Institute for Sustainability | Von Hase A.,Forest Trends | Brownlie S.,De Villiers Brownlie Associates | And 8 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Businesses, governments, and financial institutions are increasingly adopting a policy of no net loss of biodiversity for development activities. The goal of no net loss is intended to help relieve tension between conservation and development by enabling economic gains to be achieved without concomitant biodiversity losses. biodiversity offsets represent a necessary component of a much broader mitigation strategy for achieving no net loss following prior application of avoidance, minimization, and remediation measures. However, doubts have been raised about the appropriate use of biodiversity offsets. We examined what no net loss means as a desirable conservation outcome and reviewed the conditions that determine whether, and under what circumstances, biodiversity offsets can help achieve such a goal. We propose a conceptual framework to substitute the often ad hoc approaches evident in many biodiversity offset initiatives. The relevance of biodiversity offsets to no net loss rests on 2 fundamental premises. First, offsets are rarely adequate for achieving no net loss of biodiversity alone. Second, some development effects may be too difficult or risky, or even impossible, to offset. To help to deliver no net loss through biodiversity offsets, biodiversity gains must be comparable to losses, be in addition to conservation gains that may have occurred in absence of the offset, and be lasting and protected from risk of failure. Adherence to these conditions requires consideration of the wider landscape context of development and offset activities, timing of offset delivery, measurement of biodiversity, accounting procedures and rule sets used to calculate biodiversity losses and gains and guide offset design, and approaches to managing risk. Adoption of this framework will strengthen the potential for offsets to provide an ecologically defensible mechanism that can help reconcile conservation and development. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.


Malhi Y.,University of Oxford | Gardner T.A.,Stockholm Environment Institute | Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | Gardner T.A.,International Institute for Sustainability | And 4 more authors.
Annual Review of Environment and Resources | Year: 2014

The Anthropocene is characterized as an epoch when human influence has begun to fundamentally alter many aspects of the Earth system and many of the planet's biomes. Here, we review and synthesize our understanding of Anthropocene changes in tropical forests. Key facets include deforestation driven by agricultural expansion, timber and wood extraction, the loss of fauna that maintain critical ecological connections, the spread of fire, landscape fragmentation, the spread of second-growth forests, new species invasion and pathogen spread, increasing CO2, and climate change. The patterns of change are spatially heterogeneous, are often characterized by strong interactions among different drivers, can have both large-scale and remote effects, and can play out through ecological cascades over long timescales. As a consequence, most tropical forests are on a trajectory to becoming altered ecosystems, with the degree of alteration dependent on the intensity and duration of the current bottleneck of human-induced pressures. We highlight the importance of this understanding to develop the strategies necessary for shaping the transition of tropical forests through the early Anthropocene, as well as highlight the opportunities and challenges for the tropical forest science community in the coming decades. Copyright © 2014 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


COte I.M.,Simon Fraser University | Precht W.F.,Dial Cordy and Associates Inc. | Aronson R.B.,Florida Institute of Technology | Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | Gardner T.A.,International Institute for Sustainability
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2013

Caribbean reefs have experienced unprecedented changes in the past 40. years. A major hypothesis to explain shifts in reef community composition relates to declining herbivory. This hypothesis was developed largely based on observations of Jamaican reefs from the 1980s onward, but it is widely held to be relevant regionally. We use a region-wide dataset on benthic composition to examine how well the pattern of ecological change on Jamaican reefs is mirrored by other Caribbean reefs. The extent to which macroalgal cover exceeds coral cover on Jamaican reefs is an order of magnitude more extreme than seen elsewhere. We suggest that Jamaican reefs are not representative of the degradation trajectory of Caribbean reefs and management based on the Jamaican experience may not be relevant elsewhere. However, the recovery of Jamaican reefs following the return of urchins gives us hope that Caribbean reefs are more resilient to catastrophic disturbances than previously thought. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Newton P.,University of Michigan | Alves-Pinto H.N.,International Institute for Sustainability | Pinto L.F.G.,Institute Manejo e Certificacao Florestal e Agricola Imaflora
Conservation Letters | Year: 2015

Voluntary certification programs for agricultural and forest products have been developed to improve the environmental and social sustainability of production processes. The new Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) cattle certification program aims to reduce deforestation in the cattle supply chain, with a focus on Brazil. Drawing on information from interviews with key actors in Brazil, this article discusses the mechanisms that may enable the SAN cattle program to achieve these goals and to avoid critiques that have been leveled at other commodity certification programs. The program sets higher standards for sustainability than any existing policy or incentive mechanism. Participation in the program may generate significant indirect financial and non-financial benefits. The program may also influence the supply chain more widely: by demonstrating that certifiable, traceable, sustainable cattle production is viable; by "raising the bar" of sustainability standards through rigorous criteria; and by creating new markets and incentives. While the scaling up and impact of the SAN cattle program will depend in part on how it is supported or constrained by other interventions in the same sector, the program appears to be characterized by a rigorous program design that is necessary, if not sufficient, to catalyze reduced rates of forest loss. © 2014 The Authors.

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