Offsetting legal deficits of native vegetation among Brazilian landholders: Effects on nature protection and socioeconomic development
Journal article, 2017

The Brazilian native vegetation supports essential ecosystem services and biodiversity for the global society, while land use competition may intensify around the increasing needs for food, fibre and bioenergy. The Brazilian Forest Act of 2012 amplified a market-based mechanism for offsetting native vegetation deficits in private farmlands. This mechanism enables a large-scale trading system allowing landholders to offset their own deficits of native vegetation by purchasing certificates associated with a surplus of native vegetation from other landholders. This mechanism is an alternative for the more expensive restoration of native vegetation on own land. The launching of the mechanism now depends on specific regulations at state level, which may include geographical restrictions for offsetting deficits. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects in nature protection and socio-economic development of different offsetting implementation alternatives. Our findings suggest that in a business-as-usual scenario the offsetting mechanism may have little or no additional effects on protection of native vegetation, because most of the offsetting is likely to take place where native vegetation is already protected by prevailing legislations. We concluded that it is possible to maximise environmental and socio-economic returns from the offsetting mechanism without undermining productive land. This would be possible if regulations ensure additionality in nature protection while enabling a self-sustaining mechanism for income generation for small-scale family farmers in the poorest region of Brazil, protecting biodiversity and counteracting major trade-offs between ecosystem services.


Land use policy

Native vegetation

Brazilian Forest Act

Socio-economic development



Flavio Luiz Mazzaro de Freitas

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Gerd Sparovek

University of Sao Paulo (USP)

Ulla Mörtberg

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Semida Silveira

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Israel Klug

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Göran Berndes

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Land Use Policy

0264-8377 (ISSN)

Vol. 68 189-199

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Environmental Sciences

Areas of Advance




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