Restored Brazilian rainforest offers climate change hope.

Posted by David Tobias on

For the past 20 years of their lives together, a Brazilian photojournalist and his wife have transformed a 1,750-acre parcel of land from a barren, heavily deforested landscape, into a tree-filled lush rainforest that is now home to hundreds of species of plants and animals.

After returning home to Brazil’s Minas Gerais state in 1994 (about 70 miles inland from Brazil’s Atlantic coast), Sebastiao Salgado was appalled to see his family’s former cattle ranch desecrated to an unrecognizable level – a complete state of natural degradation, he later described it. “The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed. Only about .5% of the land was covered in trees,” he stated in 2015.

Sebastiao’s wife, Lelia, had the idea to replant the trees on the land and in 1998. So they formed the Instituto Terra, an organization that would focus on the rejuvenation of the valley, about the size of Maine. Their first 100,000 seedlings were donated by Vale, a large mining company and reforestation experts, which put them on a 20-year journey.

Today, the badly damage land has become a thriving fertile woodland that houses hundreds of species of flora and fauna, including 300 species of trees, more than 170 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, 15 species of amphibians and reptiles (some of which are endangered), and countless insects. It is now recognized as a nature preserve that raises tree seedlings, trains young ecologists, and welcomes visitors to experience the reborn forest.

The globe faces unprecedented climate change and the dedication by the Salgado family has proven that deforestation and climate change can be reversed. The rejuvenation has brought back several once dried-up springs, which has made a positive impact on local temperatures.


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