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Potential impacts of changes in the Brazilian Forest Code on reptiles

We evaluate the potential impacts on Brazilian reptiles (721 species already described), if the proposed changes in the Brazilian Forest Code are approved. The possibility of environmental compensation (a legal obligation in case of disturbance of natural habitats) in basins or micro basins different from that in which the disturbance occurred would have harmful effects on reptile diversity. Some reptile genera include species that rarely co-occur in space. Thus, conservation action planning based on naturally smaller scales, such as micro basins, is most suitable to maintain species composition across large regions. The proposed changes also include the removal of mountaintops as Areas of Permanent Preservation (APP, areas which must be permanently protected, despite the fact that they are not part of a park), as well as a reduction in the width of gallery forests and protected riparian habitats (which are APPs). Many Brazilian reptiles are restricted to high elevation areas, whereas others dwell only or mostly in gallery forests and riparian areas. Thus, the habitat loss that would result from these two changes could make some reptiles vulnerable to extinction. The proposed changes also include allowing the restoration of the Legal Reserves (LR, the reserves of natural vegetation which landowners have to keep in private areas) using exotic plant species. There are evidences that many Brazilian reptiles are not able to persist in human-modified environments like forests composed of exotic trees. The proposed changes also allow the compensation of disturbances imposed on LR inside existing protected areas. However, existing protected areas are not sufficient for the maintenance of reptile diversity in Brazil (mainly because many species have restricted distributions). If approved, the proposed changes in the code will impose significant negative effects on the Brazilian reptile fauna, an important component of the country's natural heritage. Furthermore, unknown molecules with potential for pharmaceutical use could also be lost.

reptiles; Brazilian Forest Code; habitat loss; extinction

Instituto Virtual da Biodiversidade | BIOTA - FAPESP Departamento de Biologia Vegetal - Instituto de Biologia, UNICAMP CP 6109, 13083-970 - Campinas/SP, Tel.: (+55 19) 3521-6166, Fax: (+55 19) 3521-6168 - Campinas - SP - Brazil