From August 5 through August 21, the world will celebrate more than 11,000 athletes from all over the world in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, holds the honor of being the first ever South American city to host a Summer Olympics venue.
As I observe the Olympians compete in this awe-inspiring city, my mind begins to wander toward the forests that protect this part of the world. A large portion of southern and eastern Brazil is home to the Atlantic Forest which boasts some of the highest species diversity on the planet. The forest ranges from tropical moist forests that receive over 2,000 mm of rain per year to the Atlantic dry forests that are comprised of mostly deciduous trees and receive much less rainfall on an annual basis. Unfortunately, over the years, these critical ecosystems have been deforested by more than 80 percent of their original coverage.
The biodiversity of the region and its resources are under constant threat of deforestation from logging, fragmentation due to agriculture, and conversion of forests to cattle pastures. All of these issues are concerning, considering that more than half of the tree species in the forest can be found nowhere else on the globe. Thousands of plant and animal species are currently considered threatened in the Atlantic Forest.
Things are not all doom and gloom, however. Conservation groups all over the world are pulling together to help restore this vast and diverse network of natural resources. I am proud to say the Arbor Day Foundation is playing a role in the reestablishment of the Atlantic Forest. Since 2013, the Foundation and its partners have provided funding toward the restoration initiative that is revitalizing degraded riparian forests and improving priority watersheds. The continuing renewal efforts are having a positive impact not only on the Atlantic Forest but also on the millions of people who live in major cities surrounding the forest.
Our role at the Arbor Day Foundation is to elevate awareness of the work being done in Brazil, leverage our existing networks in the region, and utilize trees and forest restoration as a solution to many of the problems being faced by the residents of this magnificent country. Please visit our Replanting Our Forests site to learn more about our global reach and how each and every one of us can make a difference.