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Electoral cycles influence destruction of Atlantic rainforest areas in southern and southeastern Brazil

Publicado em 22 setembro 2021

A study conducted at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil, and reported in an article published in the journal Conservation Letters, shows that destruction of the Atlantic Rainforest increases in election years.

A study analyzed data for the period 1991-2014 and revealed that deforestation increased in election years. Credit: Simone Vieira/BIOTA-FAPESP Program

A study conducted at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil, and reported in an article published in the journal Conservation Letters, shows that destruction of the Atlantic Rainforest increases in election years.

The researchers correlated data from the Electoral High Court (TSE) and MapBiomas, the Brazilian Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping Project, for 2,253 municipalities in the southern and southeastern regions covering the period 1991-2014. They found that an additional 3,652 hectares of Atlantic Rainforest per year were cleared on average in federal and state election years than in non-election years. The average increase for municipal election years was 4,409 hectares.

They also detected a downtrend in cyclical deforestation surges due to political initiatives that leveraged natural capital in exchange for votes. "The phenomenon was more intense in the past and has trended down over time, possibly because as democracies mature, media coverage of the problem improves, and as voters understand it better they tend not to reward politicians who behave opportunistically," Patricia Ruggiero, first author of the article, explained.

The study was part of Ruggiero's Ph.D. research for the university's Department of Ecology, which awarded her a prize for the best thesis on the topic, and was conducted under the aegis of the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA-FAPESP). It was funded by FAPESP via four projects (13/23457-6, 15/16587-6, 17/20245-9 and 14/11676-8). It was also supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Ministry of Education's Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) in Brazil, and the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Deforestation…

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