Salvador, Brazil’s first capital, is working to protect its forests and trees. The city stands out for its leadership on global agenda issues. Already a member of international networks such as 100 Resilient Cities, C40 and the Compact of Mayors, Salvador now joins the Cities4Forests network and is looking forward to sharing their successful experiences, exchanging knowledge with other cities, and harnessing the potential to improve their projects through experts’ support.
In 2016, the city, called the capital of the Atlantic Forest, established the System of Environmental and Cultural Value Areas (SAVAM) as part of its Urban Development Master Plan, helping increase the protected areas in the municipality. In addition, the city has a Master Plan for Urban Afforestation and a technical manual for planting native trees compatible with local infrastructure. These documents and other sectoral plans, such as the Atlantic Forest Conservation and Recovery Municipal Plan and the Climate Change Plan, are part of the city’s Resilience Strategy, which is included in the “Sustainable City” axis of the Salvador 360 Program.
“Salvador is attracting a new kind of interest from the world, thanks to an engagement in expanding and maintaining the green coverage in our city. Promoting pleasant, sustainable and harmonious living environments is a constant challenge, but the benefits are of immeasurable relevance. Cities4Forests contributes with essential connections for innovative strategies to be effective and lasting.”
Municipal Secretary of Sustainability, Innovation and Resilience
Salvador is located at the entrance of the Bay of All Saints, the largest bay on the Brazilian coast. The municipal territory consists of a continental portion, surrounded by the sea to the south, east and west, and an island portion. The island portion gathers four islands (Frades Island, Bom Jesus dos Passos Island, Santo Antônio Island and Maré Island) and two islets (Santos and Pagãos). The area of the city totals 309 km² (or 692 km², if considered the area of the Bay of All Saints). Salvador has an estimated population of 2,675,656 inhabitants (according to the 2010 Census), and a demographic density of 8,659.08 inhabitants per km². The city does not have a rural zone. Overall, 39.5% of its urban households reside on afforested streets.
Salvador has a humid to sub-humid climate, which favors plants growth. Originally, the city had a dense rainforest in its higher elevation areas; sandbank vegetation (known as “restinga”) on dunes, plains and beaches; and mangroves in the estuaries of the rivers that flow into the ocean. All of these vegetation types (forest, sandbanks, and mangroves) are part of the Atlantic Forest biome, and legally, sandbanks and mangroves are considered their own associated ecosystems.
The city still has some significant forest remnants. The study “Vegetation Diagnosis of the Atlantic Forest Biome in the City of Salvador”, conducted by the Public Prosecutor of the State of Bahia, identified 270 plant species. It concluded that the city’s forest fragments reach 5,249 hectares, of which more than a half (56%) is in middle growth stage and 0.9% in advanced stage.
Salvador is one of the 2,481 Brazilian municipalities with their territories fully included in the Atlantic Forest biome, a biological unit rich in biodiversity with varied forest formations and associated ecosystems, such as sandbanks and mangroves. Yet, the Atlantic Forest is also the most endangered biome on the planet. Even with the forest’s characteristic exuberance, the reduction of its main green areas has continued. The creation of new parks, the institutionalization of conservation units, and the intensification of urban revegetation actions can contribute to the protection and reversal of this situation.
As part of the Atlantic Forest, the city of Salvador has the potential to become the national capital of this biome. To achieve this goal, the City Hall launched in 2017 the Program for Access to Green Areas, Popularization, Conservation and Expansion of the Atlantic Forest Biome in Salvador (also known as the Salvador, Capital of the Atlantic Forest program), which articulates a series of ongoing initiatives and new actions that promote the sustainable development of the city while protecting the Atlantic Forest.
Institutional actions include the expansion of the preservation and restoration of forest fragments. Salvador went from only four conservation units and five urban parks (established in the 2008 plan) to 11 conservation units and 11 urban parks by 2016. Today, green spaces for physical activities, contemplative leisure, and scientific research in the municipality total 42 million m² .
In 2016, Salvador was also selected to be part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Program (100RC). Urban resilience is understood by the program as the ability of individuals, communities, institutions and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow regardless of the shocks and chronic stresses to which they are subjected.
Thus, the Resilience Strategy developed by Salvador’s City Hall aims to promote a greater connection between policies, and more transversality in initiatives to address urban problems, both in the short and long term. Salvador defined five pillars of action to become more resilient until 2049, when the city celebrates its 500 years anniversary. They are: 1) Culture and Multiple Identities; 2) Healthy and Engaged Community; 3) Diversified and Inclusive Economy; 4) Informed City and Innovative Governance; 5) Sustainable Urban Transformation.
Drawing upon these five pillars, the city establishes actions to improve resilience, such as: meeting the basic needs of the population; guaranteeing social stability, security and justice; providing and enhancing natural and built protective assets; providing reliable communication and mobility systems; encouraging integrated and long-term planning; promoting effective leadership and management; and promoting cohesive and committed communities.
Salvador’s taking big steps to preserve and restore conservation units, parks and other remnant forest fragments of the Atlantic Forest in Salvador. These efforts continue to help expand and improve the access to green spaces for Salvador’s residents.