Irrigation dams threaten Brazilian biodiversity

Valter M. Azevedo-Santos*, Philip M. Fearnside, Marlene S. Arcifa, Lívia H. Tonella, Tommaso Giarrizzo, Fernando M. Pelicice, Angelo A. Agostinho, Anne E. Magurran, N. LeRoy Poff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brazil is among the main contributors to global biodiversity, which, in turn, provides extensive ecosystem services. Agriculture is an activity that benefits greatly from these ecosystem services, but at the same time is degrading aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and eroding Brazilian biodiversity. This conflict is growing, as emerging unsustainable legislative proposals that will benefit the agricultural sector are likely to accelerate the decline of biodiversity. One such initiative (Bill 1282/2019) would change Brazil’s “Forest Code” (Law 12,651/2012) to facilitate construction of irrigation dams in Permanent Preservation Areas, a category that includes strips (with or without vegetation) along the edges of watercourses. Two other similar bills are advancing through committees in the Chamber of Deputies. Here we provide details of these three bills and discuss their consequences for Brazil’s biodiversity if they are approved. Expected negative impacts with changes in the legislation include: increased deforestation; siltation; habitat fragmentation; introduction of non-native species; reduction in the availability of aquatic habitats; and changes in biogeochemical process. These proposals jeopardize biodiversity and may compromise the negotiations for an agreement between Mercosur and the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024


  • Agriculture
  • Deforestation
  • Forest Code
  • Global warming
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Law


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