Brazil's Atlantic Forest region is a biodiversity hotspot. It is home to many endangered species, a large portion of which are found nowhere else. Scientists from the New York Botanical Garden announced in 1993 that a forest in southern Bahia had set the world record for tree biodiversity: 456 different tree species in a single hectare. Threats are logging and the conversion of land into cattle pasture. This is accelerated by the poor market for cocoa.
Conservation International Foundation and the Institute for Socio-Environmental Studies (IESB) has analysed the choices facing individual landowners in order to understand the economics of conservation in the region. They studied the options of clearing forest for cattle-ranching, logging, cocoa cropping, harvesting piassava from the forest and forest conservation supporting tourism. They then were able to formulate a conservation strategy in tune with the prevailing economic political, and social realities. The primary focus is on farmers who own more than 50 hectares, because they possess more than 90 percent of the remaining forest of the region. They are also working with ecotourism operators and a diverse group of policy-makers in the region, providing information on a variety of economic factors, some quantified, and others not. These values include the importance of the forest to the tourism industry watershed management, prevention of soil erosion and beach pollution as well as the importance of fish and other foods to households.
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