Cities in Action: São Paulo’s Protected Areas

São Paulo is the largest city in South America, with over 11 million inhabitants. Remarkably, 40% of its metropolitan area is still covered by forest. In the inner city, the vegetated areas are fragmented and scattered throughout the urban area. However, the scenario is completely different in the peripheral areas – especially in the South of the city, where there are important watersheds. In these areas, the vegetation is denser and lusher, forming a unique landscape. These remnants of vegetation belong to the Atlantic Forest ecoregion and support a high level of biodiversity, as well as accounting for the provision of several environmental services such as clean water and food supply.150629_Sao Paulo2

The conservation of São Paulo’s natural heritage, which is fundamental to maintaining the environmental quality of the metropolis, has become increasingly difficult in recent times because of the encroachment of local communities into these protected areas. In order to counteract this trend, the municipal government has adopted policies and implemented strategies to create specially protected environmental areas.

This strategy aims not only to ensure the conservation of the city’s natural heritage, but to support the socio-economic development of local communities, who participate in the management of these areas. These participatory practices have demonstrated that the management of sensitive biodiversity areas – including indigenous lands as well as farms, ranches, and small urban centers – may be conducted through a rich network of relationships, and that the development of environmentally-friendly peri-urban communities can be guided by sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism.

For more information, please visit the City of São Paolo website.


Both photos © Simone Miketen.

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