Courtesy of the Nature Conservancy

On April 1, 2008, The Nature Conservancy launched the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign, an online fundraising campaign to support its efforts in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. The Nature Conservancy, a Planet Green NGO partner, is working with in-country groups to restore and plant one billion trees on 2.5 million acres of the Atlantic Forest by 2015. Some of these partners include Brazil's federal government, the state governments of Parana and Sao Paulo, the Extrema municipality, forestry companies, local cooperatives, NGOs, and local communities. The goal is to bring the Atlantic Forest back from the brink of destruction by regenerating large tracts of native forest through an ambitious large-scale reforestation plan. In addition to replanting the 2.5 million acres, the program will also help connect more than 12 million acres in new forest corridors.

Deforestation contributes about 25 percent of carbon emissions worldwide?that's more than all transportation globally. Cutting down and burning just one medium-sized tree releases one metric ton of carbon into the atmosphere; that's the equivalent of driving from Miami to New York City in an SUV. By slowing or halting deforestation, we can store more carbon and reduce emissions that cause climate change.

The Nature Conservancy has worked on forest carbon and sustainable forestry projects that help reduce deforestation, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, for more than a decade. Its ongoing efforts include working with public and private landowners around the globe to restore forest ecosystems through fire management practices, using market-based incentives for forest conservation, and replanting trees to improve water quality and restore ecosystems. By doing so, TNC has kept 17.5 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The organization hopes to have some of the reforestation projects certified by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards.

About the Atlantic Forest

No tropical forest on Earth has come closer to total destruction than Brazil's Atlantic Forest. Once a lush forest two times the size of Texas, rapid development has shrunk it to the size of Virginia. Although the Atlantic Forest is a fraction of the size of the Amazon rainforest, its remnants harbor a range of biological diversity similar to that of the Amazon, including more than 2,000 vertebrate species?mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and birds?that represent 5 percent of all vertebrates on Earth. More than 800 of these are unique to the Atlantic Forest. Furthermore, 60 percent of Brazil's threatened species are found in the Atlantic Forest. And on fewer than 2.5 forest acres, scientists have identified more than 458 tree species?more than exist in the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.

Development Pressures

Though some of the destruction dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the damage done to the Atlantic Forest has occurred in the last 100 years, largely due to Brazil's rapid development. Today, more than 93 percent of the Atlantic Forest has been cleared; only 7 percent remains well preserved, and these are isolated fragments.

Today the forest is home to 11 cities and 130 million people one million people, or 70 percent of Brazil's population. About 80 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product is generated in the region, and forested areas are still being cleared for soybean and sugarcane production, non-native tree plantations, cattle ranching, illegal logging, and urban and coastal development. But the region depends on the remaining Atlantic Forest to protect clean and abundant drinking water, and only 2 percent of the original forest area legally protected, and in recent years, water shortages and contamination have become a fact of life in mega-cities like São Paulo.

How the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign Works

Planting and restoring one billion trees is a very ambitious goal; nothing on this scale has been attempted before in South America. TNC hopes to endow our children with an Atlantic Forest at least twice its current size, which will continue removing thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.

To reconnect forest fragments through intensive reforestation in order to create forest corridors and improve the health of native species, the Conservancy's Atlantic Forest Conservation Program and partners are implementing strategies that fall into four tightly integrated strategies:

- Economic incentives for conservation

- Large-scale reforestation

- Sustainable use of natural resources

- Creation and effective protection of public and private protected areas

Specifically, TNC will also work with landowners and their associations to facilitate compliance with environmental laws that require them to reforest or conserve their riparian and recharge areas and steep slopes; support the development of carbon sequestration projects that make conservation sense and can co-finance reforestation activities.

Visit the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign web site to learn more about the project, explore The Atlantic Forest via interactive map, become involved in the online community, and, of course, plant a tree?just one dollar is all it takes.