Tanguro Science Symposium displays 20 years of Amazon research

Finding harmony between nature and production has been at the center of Tanguro Research Station's 20 years

Ângela Conceição, president of FETAGRI, speaks on a panel at the event

Ângela Conceição, president of FETAGRI, speaks on a panel at the event. Photo by Lucas Guaraldo/IPAM

This story was originally published in Brazilian Portuguese on IPAM Amazônia’s website – read the original version

Climate change was the center of the debate between rural producers, scientists, public authorities and indigenous peoples at the Symposium celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Tanguro Field Station, which took place in Brasília from June 10-12. The event highlighted the dialogue between the groups as a key to socio-environmental and economic transformation in favor of a possible future for life on Earth.

Functioning as an open-air laboratory, the Tanguro Research Station is located in the city of Querência, in Mato Grosso, in the southeastern Amazon. It was founded by IPAM (Amazon Environmental Research Institute) in partnership with the company Amaggi and the Woodwell Climate Research Center in the United States. In its two decades of existence, the results of this joint initiative add up to more than 180 high-impact scientific publications and bring together researchers from seven countries studying the environment and agriculture.

“The revolution in the countryside cost almost 50% of the Cerrado and 20% of the Amazon—this model is no longer sustainable,” said André Guimarães, executive director of IPAM. “It is necessary to ask questions to companies, as they will also have to adapt services to a new climatic condition,” he added. The director recalled that the assumption of the work at the Tanguro Field Station is to bring agricultural production closer to nature conservation.

The plurality of experiences and knowledge shared at the symposium was highlighted by Dr. R. Max Holmes, CEO of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, an institution that has been working alongside IPAM for thirty years.

“Bringing together this group of experts from science, civil society and from different places gives me hope and optimism. The challenge for all of us is to take forward the big ideas around the climate solutions discussed. Climate conferences are opportunities to continue to make progress on these incredibly urgent issues, which can only be solved in partnership,” Holmes said.

Balance

The meeting of different sectors around the socio-environmental and economic discussion comes at a time when studies show the loss of natural functions of tropical forests due to the global burning of fossil fuels, and, in Brazil, mainly due to deforestation, degradation and fire.

Ecosystem services, as the benefits produced by nature are called, maintain all forms of life, ensuring air quality and the availability of water and food, for example. They contribute to pollination, pest control and local climate regulation, providing adequate rain, humidity and temperature for agricultural production.

“How do we build a land use solution so that people understand that it is possible to reconcile forest with conservation, development with job and income generation from a better use of what we have already cut down? This is Brazil’s challenge. That is why we have sought a partnership with IPAM. That is why we created, in the State of Pará, the State Policy on Climate Change and the Amazon Now program,” said Helder Barbalho, governor of the State of Pará, present at the event.

Research area
a group photo of symposium attendees in an auditorium

Pará Governor Helder Barbalho and Minister Paulo Teixeira participated in the symposium. Photo by Disclosure/Agência Pará

“We don’t know what the world will be like going forward, we just know it can’t be the same. We have a lot to learn and build with each other. Climate change is real and the producer realizes it, but if he does not feel he belongs in the conversation about what needs to be improved, it is difficult to engage,” said Juliana Lopes, director of ESG, Communication and Compliance at AMAGGI.

From 2022 to 2023, agriculture grew by 15.1%, influencing GDP performance, but still putting pressure on Brazilian biomes. The Tanguro Field Station develops studies to understand the influence of the forest on agriculture and vice versa, in order to subsidize environmentally and socially sustainable production and conservation strategies.

“Results of Tanguro’s research socialized with us are important to see new perspectives and develop agriculture, ensuring food security,” added Ângela Conceição, president of Federation of Agricultural Workers of the State of Pará (FETAGRI).

Juliana Lopes endorsed the recognition: “The partnership with IPAM was the way that AMAGGI found, with researchers, to make an assessment of how we can ensure continuity in agricultural production, investing in the conservation of biodiversity and native areas.”

Knowledge generation

Storing half the carbon emitted on the globe, tropical forests provide climate stability. This stockpile capacity is being hampered by climate change caused by human activities. “Our challenge is to find ways to maintain that service and, at the same time, growth and prosperity,” said Woodwell Climate Research Center researcher Dr. Michael Coe.

And how to find an answer to this challenge? The solution may lie in nature itself. Data presented by Dr. Wayne Walker, Senior Scientist at Woodwell, shows that nature-based solutions have the potential to deliver 37% of the emissions reduction needed to limit global average temperature rise to less than 2°C. “Land is more than just a carbon store. We need to implement these solutions in a scalable way, ensuring capital flows with equity and sustainability,” he commented.

IPAM researcher Dr. Filipe Arruda pointed out that environmental disturbances have been occurring more intensely with climate change. “The impact on the habitat modifies the animal and plant species on site, changing everything from temperature control to pest control within the forest and in agricultural areas.”

Dr. Leonardo Maracahipes, Local Coordinator of the Tanguro Field Station and researcher at IPAM, presented a study on the change in tree leaves in areas of intact forest and in those fragmented by agricultural activity. “The thickness of the leaf was greater in the area of agriculture, while the size of the leaf was greater in the areas of preserved forest,” he explained, demonstrating vegetation strategies to adapt to the surroundings.

In farming, the effects of nature are also the object of study: “We estimate a 6% reduction in soybean yield for every 1°C increase in temperature,” said Dr. Ludmila Rattis, a researcher at IPAM and the Woodwell Climate Research Center. On the positive side, when the forest is maintained, it helps in production. Bianca Rebelatto, a researcher at IPAM, recalled that 90% of Brazil’s agriculture is not irrigated and that forests protect crops against heat waves and reduce future climate challenges.

Two researchers in a vegetated area wearing hard hats. One is standing, the other crouching and looking at a camera.

Scientists working at the Tanguro Field Station. Photo by Mitch Korolev/Woodwell

Responses presented by the sectors to avoid more extreme events, reduce damage to the environment, and promote responsible ways of living include, in addition to sustainable production, the bioeconomy of natural products from the Amazon and Cerrado.

“Land use change and climate change have already increased the chances of a catastrophic fire in the Xingu by another 10%,” explained Dr. Paulo Brando, IPAM associate researcher and professor at Yale University in the United States. “About 16% of forests in the southeastern Amazon may burn due to these factors. Fire-degraded forests seem healthy from the point of view of remote sensing, but they are much more vulnerable to extreme events such as drought, which is what is happening in the Xingu and much of the region.”

According to Brando, the Xingu region is 2°C warmer due to increased deforestation and human pressure on the natural landscape. The Xingu Indigenous Territory functions as a local air conditioner, with 5°C less than monocultures and neighboring pastures, revealed by a technical note produced by IPAM and the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

While the situation is not resolved, the peoples of the Xingu continue to struggle to produce. “We have the land, but we keep buying in the city. We, from the Xingu, are still studying how we can make production on a larger scale, “said Yuri Kuikuro, a master’s student in Ecology at INPA (National Institute for Amazonian Research). “It is necessary to bring young people to train, to use technology, to try to understand how to produce to maintain our culture. Add science to figure it out,” he concluded.

Survival

“First we have to think about surviving climate change: working in the collective, regardless of whether it is civil society, company, or public power, for our physical and mental survival,” said Mauro O’ de Almeida, Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainability of Pará, present at the symposium.

The climate emergency alerts to the Amazon’s point of no return, also known as the tipping point, from which the biome would lose its natural capabilities and become a type of degraded ecosystem—a “zombie Amazon.” In the Cerrado, the reality also worries scientists, given that most of the biome’s remaining native vegetation is within private rural properties.

“It is common to hear that the world will end, but it has already ended, due to climate change, for the people who died in Rio Grande do Sul,” said Rattis, referring to the extreme climatic event of rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul this year. About 175 people died and 38 are missing. More than 2 million were affected by the floods, according to the Civil Defense.

In the Amazon, the Rio Negro drought in 2023 affected all 62 cities in the State of Amazonas and affected more than 600,000 people, also according to the state Civil Defense.

“The Xingu Indigenous Territory is also being impacted by climate change. Indigenous people have been talking about this for a long time and we are not taken seriously. These extreme events are affecting all sectors, so sitting at the table with partners who were once our enemies shows how we need to be united to change the scenario we have,” said Kaianaku Kamaiurá, partnership coordinator at OURS and coordinator of the Amazônia de Pé project.

The climate commitments of Brazil and the world, to be renewed and expanded until COP30 (United Nations Conference on Climate Change) in Belém, are the necessary measure to prevent the worsening of housing conditions on the planet and prevent more lives from being lost.

“First, that the world can accelerate the change in the energy matrix to stop emitting carbon dioxide. Second, pay for the maintenance of the forest and its recovery. In the past, I remember that agribusiness was against the climate debate, but not today: it has assumed an awareness that it needs the forest. COP30 will be the great political space in the Amazon to demand from the world attention for those who are preserving,” said Paulo Teixeira, Minister of Agrarian Development and Family Agriculture.

The Tanguro Field Station 20-Year Celebration Symposium was held by IPAM in partnership with the Woodwell Climate Research Center, Yale University School of the Environment, and Max-Planck-Geselschaft. Learn more about the Tanguro Field Station and how to donate on the website.