NASA satellite images reveal more Amazon deforestation
August 8, 2006
Newly released pictures from NASA show deforestation continuing in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.
According to the Brazilian government, nearly half of Amazon deforestation in 2003 and 2004 occurred in Mato Grosso, though total forest loss in the Amazon basin dropped by about 37 percent between 2004 and 2005, from 10,088 square miles (26,129 sq km kilometers) to 7,298 square miles of rainforest (18,900 square kilometers).
The new NASA images show the ongoing transformation of the biodiverse rainforest for pastureland and farms. 60-70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon results from cattle ranches while the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence agriculture. Despite the widespread press attention, large-scale farming (i.e. soybeans) currently contributes relatively little to total deforestation in the Amazon. Most soybean cultivation takes place outside the rainforest in the neighboring cerrado grassland ecosystem and in areas that have already been cleared. Logging results in forest degradation but rarely direct deforestation. However, studies have showed a close correlation between logging and future clearing for settlement and farming.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has recently moved to set aside more of the Amazon for protection, establishing several parks over the past year. While recent research has demonstrated that reserves do indeed cut deforestation, last year's slowing in the deforestation rate is more likely due to due to lower commodity prices, giving farmers less incentive to clear forest land. The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Mato Grosso do Sul, has also probably had an impact on forest clearing for cattle grazing.
Since 1970 Brazil has lost over 232,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers) of rainforest in the Amazon. Nevertheless, the country still has about one-third of the world's remaining tropical rainforest cover. Scientists estimate that perhaps 30 percent of the world's species live in the Amazon rainforest but some are concerned that continued deforestation and the looming risk of climate change could put the region's biodiversity at risk. Last year the Amazon suffered the worst drought on record.
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