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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brazil confirms big jump in Amazon deforestation

Brazil confirms big jump in Amazon deforestation
by Rhett A. Butler,, May 18, 2011
New Brazilian government data shows an area of Amazon rainforest 10 times the size of Manhattan was cleared in the past 2 months.

Amazon deforestation Mar-Apr

New data from the Brazilian government seems to confirm environmentalists' fears that farmers and ranchers are clearing rainforest in anticipation of a weakening of the country's rules governing forest protection.

Wednesday, Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE) announced a sharp rise in deforestation in March and April relative to the same period last year. INPE's rapid deforestation detection system (DETER) recorded 593 square kilometers of forest clearing during the past two months, an area of rainforest 10 times the size of Manhattan and a 473% increase over the 103.5 sq km chopped down from March-April 2010.

81% of the recent clearing occurred in Mato Grosso, the southernmost state in the Brazilian Amazon that has accounted for more than 35% of the region's deforestation since 1988.

INPE's announcement comes a day after Imazon, a research institute that also tracks deforestation, reported a big percent increase in clear-cutting. Imazon also found a surge in forest degradation, the logging, burning, and thinning of forest that often precedes deforestation.

The short-term deforestation tracking systems used by INPE and Imazon are used primarily for law enforcement [show me who was ever prosecuted!]. Both rely on relatively coarse satellite resolution, making them faster but less accurate than the systems used to determine annual deforestation, which is estimated every August. Month-to-month deforestation can be highly variable in Brazil, by clearing usually peaks in the dry season between July and October. High rates of clearing in April is unusual.

deforestation in brazil's amazon rainforest since 1988

The increase in deforestation in April is thought to be linked to the current debate over Brazil's forest code, which requires land owners to maintain 80% of their holdings as forest in the Amazon region. Anticipating a weakening in the code [no, they just took advantage of the fact that it was not flooding] that would grant amnesty for deforestation, farmers and ranchers have been clearing swathes of forest [with the money they'll get from the timber, they will have more than enough to put money in the pockets of the politicians and amnesty won't even matter -- rich people in Brazil do not go to jail]. Dry conditions, lingering from last year's worst-ever drought, have exacerbated the situation.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is typically driven by industrial agriculture and land speculation. More than 70% of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture.

High commodity prices typically create incentives for deforestation. [Uh, that would be lack of any law enforcement in those regions where nearly all politicians are being bribed.]

1 comment:

Lou Gold said...

Please - this is so important - go to this site to sign a petition to the Brazilian government. International scrutiny is needed in support of the many Brazilian forest defenders who are trying to stop this destruction: