The Brazilian Forest Code and riparian preservation areas: spatiotemporal analysis and implications for hydrological ecosystem services

  • Trent W. BiggsEmail author
  • Thais Muniz Ottoni Santiago
  • Erin Sills
  • Jill Caviglia-Harris
Original Article


The Brazilian Forest Code (BFC) requires the preservation and restoration of forests in riparian preservation areas (RPAs). The total area in RPAs and the impacts of changes in the BFC on RPA requirements are uncertain due to lack of clarity about how RPAs are defined in practice. We reconstruct the history of the RPA rule, use a recent cadastral database (CAR) of the state of Rondônia to quantify the area of RPA by stream size and to document the impact of the 2012 changes in RPA requirements, and review the literature on hydrological ecosystem services (HES) in light of RPA rules. We find that most (64%) of the area in RPAs in the state of Rondônia was illegally deforested by 2017, and the 2012 regulations require restoration of only half of that cleared area. Most of the RPA is located along small streams (< 10 m wide) that were typically missing in previous assessments. As of 2017, 66% of the RPA along small streams was deforested, while most (70–95%) RPA along large streams (> 200 m wide) was forested. Current restoration requirements (5 m regardless of stream width) for very small properties (< 60 ha) are likely inadequate to restore HES. Preservation of forest along large streams remains important, but policy and management should also emphasize the preservation and restoration of forest along small streams because they account for most of the riparian preservation area, with important implications for humans and ecosystems.


Tropical forest Deforestation Riparian zones Hydrological ecosystem services Forest policy Amazon 



Thanks to Petterson Molina Vale, Katrina Mullan, Elvino Ferreira, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript and to Ricardo Vale and Thales West for discussions on the interpretation of the BFC and CAR data. The CAR data were obtained from the Brazilian Forest Service ( Maps were created using ArcGIS® software by Esri. ArcGIS® and ArcMap™ are the intellectual property of Esri and are used herein under license. Copyright © Esri.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875, with partial support from National Science Foundation CNH-L award 1825046 to Dr. Katrina Mullan (University of Montana).

Supplementary material

10113_2019_1549_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.9 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1900 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  4. 4.Economics and Finance Department and Environmental Studies DepartmentSalisbury UniversitySalisburyUSA

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