São Paulo Greenbelt
- Rodrigo A. B. M. Victor
Reserva da Biosfera do Cinturao Verde da Ciudade de São Paulo
Rua do Horto, 931, São Paulo, 02377-000 SP
This assessment is coordinated by the São Paulo State Forest Institute.
The team for the preliminary assessment phase was drawn from the following
institutions: Universidade de São Paulo - USP (Faculdade de Educação, Faculdade
de Arquitetura e Urbanismo, Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz,
Escola de Engenharia de São Carlos, PROCAM – Programa de Pós-Graduação em
Ciências Ambientais), Universidade do Estado de São Paulo – UNESP, Universidade
de Campinas – UNICAMP, Universidade Guarulhos, Instituto Geológico, Instituto
de Botânica, Instituto de Economia Agrícola, Instituto de Pesca, Instituto
Internacional de Ecologia.
The preliminary assessment was funded by UNESCO, São Paulo Forest Institute,
and the Environment Ministry, with substantial in-kind contributions from
the above-mentioned institutions.
The São Paulo Green Belt Sub-global Assessment (São Paulo GB) aims at
providing the region’s decision-makers with information on the importance
of ecosystem services provided by the Green Belt of São Paulo and Santos
metropolises, how the changes generated by urbanization threaten the continuity
of these vital processes, the consequences of these phenomena for human
well-being, future scenarios and the response options for dealing with these
São Paulo Green Assessment was divided into 3 phases, as follows:
- Phase I: corresponds to the preliminary assessment conducted in
July–December 2003 and subsequent activities (review of the preliminary
assessment, interactions with the MA Secretariat) leading up to the
acceptance as an approved MA sub-global assessment.
- Phase II: assessment outreach and fund-raising activities, expected
to be accomplished in 2007.
- Phase III: The core assessment period is intended to extend from
2007 through 2009.
The following services were preliminarily assessed, fresh and underground
water, food, forest resources, climate regulation, run-off regulation, carbon
sequestration, sustainable tourism, social benefits. The full assessment
shall include more services as more researchers join the process. The list
below summarizes the main services and their relevance to human well-being
Summary of Ecosystem Services preliminarily assessed / to be assessed
Ecological processes and biodiversity : The Atlantic Forest is one of
Earth’s richest biomes in biodiversity; maintaining its biological diversity
is an ethical duty of the population and also important for protection of
the biological safety of human beings. Locally, the Green Belt (GB) woods
are important ecological corridors, true links connecting different forest
regions of Brazil.
Underground and surface water supply and conservation. Water resources
within the GB supply water to over 20 million people. Endangerment of this
water supply can lead to a collapse in public supply, whose shortage is
already felt today during some dry seasons. There is also a strong correlation
between forests and water quality, with serious economic implications.
Today, 15% of the world’s food is produced in backyards and small land
tracts (Ian Douglas, Univ. of Manchester, 2002, persona communication).
The GB has this tradition and today is one of Brazil’s top organic produce
regions. Besides, the choice for agriculture in areas surrounding cities
is regarded as an alternative to the expansion of big cities.
Forest timber / non-timber resources
The forest-originated raw material produced in the Green Belt is representative
of São Paulo State’s forest-based economy, mainly as a function of reforestation.
- Climate regulation. The GB relates directly to
climate regulation in the region, in counterpoint to the urban area
that causes temperature to rise (heat islands). It has been suggested
that this phenomenon has some linkages to the issue of thermal balance
that influences rainfall patterns, leading to heavy floods in urban
- Soil protection and run-off regulation. The GB
controls soil erosion, regulates run-off, minimizes floods and resulting
- Water Purification. Carbon sequestration and pollutant
reduction. The GB has over 600,000 hectares of natural vegetation (most
of which under regeneration stages) and 119,000 hectares of reforestation,
playing an important role in CO2 sequestration. The role of vegetation
as a potential barrier for pollution diffusion is also being investigated.
- Tourism: São Paulo Green Belt has a tremendous potential for many
sustainable tourism modalities, including ecotourism.
- Others: religious / spiritual, aesthetic, historical, etc.
Summary of most important drivers of ecosystem change partially assessed
/ to be assessed
Between 1991 and 2000, the population of the metropolitan region rose
by 15.7% in absolute numbers, at a 1.63% annual rate, while shantytown population
rose by 57.96%, at a 5.21% annual rate. The process of shantytown dispersion
intensifies in metropolitan municipalities. The growth in the past decade
confirms the magnitude and aggravation of the housing issue, portraying
with precision the ‘peripherization’ of growth in São Paulo’s metropolitan
region. Consequently, the environment is subjected to a devastating degree
of degradation owing to illegal land parceling and occupation of protected
areas and vulnerable land.
- Air pollution. The main pollutants found in the
urban and industrial atmosphere of the GB which result from human influence
are particulate material, sulfur (SOx) and nitrogen (NOx) oxide, organic
compounds and components from photochemical smog, including ozone (O3)
and peroxi-acetyl nitrate (PAN). They are all harmful to biological
- Water pollution. There are several categories of
substances that may contaminate water, including solid suspensions,
organic and toxic substances, heavy metals, herbicides, detergents,
radioisotopes etc. One of the best-documented effects of the impact
of man on aquatic ecosystems is artificial eutrophication, which results
from a nutrient increase, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen, leading
to environmental unbalance, with serious damage to the integrity of
aquatic ecosystems, to the economy and to public health.
The 39 municipalities that form the São Paulo Metropolitan Region registered
a daily collection of approximately 22 thousand tons of solid domestic residue,
which was disposed in twelve sanitary landfills, five controlled landfills
and seven large waste dumps. Additionally, an enormous volume of waste material
from building construction is produced daily (São Paulo alone collects 60
thousand tons every month - PMSP, 2002).
Mining acts with variable intensity in 59 of the 71 municipalities fully
or partially comprised by the SPGB. Its main feature is the production of
mineral goods largely used in building construction, including sand, crushed
rock, clay for red ceramics and decorative granite. Some of these materials
are destined for use outside the GB region.
The land-related conflicts in the São Paulo City Green Belt Biosphere
Reserve region, resulting from inadequate land regulation, threaten the
maintenance of the GB and its natural, cultural and historical heritage.
These conflicts, specifically characterized by superposing of title to land
and inaccuracy in cartographic correspondence, invariably result from the
historical difficulties in instituting a reliable registration system for
rural property in Brazil. This is especially evident in forested areas where
title to land is still unclear and in public domain areas.
The GB is increasingly pressed for the development of infrastructure
facilities / constructions (i.e. roads) for city development demands.
Fires, urbanization, and logging cause land cover change and lead to
yearly losses of important forest areas.
- São Paulo Green Belt Summary Report, December 2003, R. Victor et
al., ‘‘Application of the Biosphere Reserve Concept to Urban Areas:
The Case of the São
- Paulo City Green Belt Biosphere Reserve,’’. 2003. available at