Amazon deforestation rises slightly to 4,600 square miles in 2008
November 28, 2008

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased slightly for the August 2007-July 2008 period, reports the country's National Institute of Space Research (INPE). The rise is the first since 2004 when 27,379 square kilometers were destroyed, but is lower than forecast. The 2008 figure is the second-lowest annual loss since 1991.

INPE estimates that 11,968 square kilometers (4,600 square miles) of rainforest were cleared during the recent period, a 3.8 percent increase from the 11,532 sq km lost during the prior year. The figures are lower than forecasts put forth earlier this year, possibly due to the recent collapse in commodity prices. Clearing in the Amazon is increasingly linked to beef and grain markets — as prices rise, farmers and ranchers convert more rainforest land.

The Brazilian government has also stepped up efforts to rein in illegal forest-clearing, including enacting new environmental laws, establishing protected areas, and launching a series of highly-publicized raids on illicit logging and farming operations. In August President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva unveiled a $21 billion donation-based fund to finance conservation and sustainable development projects in the region. Norway has already committed a billion dollars to the initiative.

Deforestation figures from INPE. NOTE Conventional logging is not included in these figures, which count only complete clearing or conversion of forest land. Logging is considered "degradation". By some estimates the area logged annually in Brazil is one to one-and-a-half times the area deforested.
While low commodity prices and increased government action may temper forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, Earth's largest rainforest is far from safe. Regional climate trends indicate that large swathes of the Amazon are increasingly susceptible to drought and fire. Coupled with continued deforestation, degradation, and fragmentation, some researchers say the Amazon is approaching a critical tipping point which could see more than half of the forest damaged or destroyed within a generation.

The Brazilian Amazon accounts for roughly sixty percent of the Amazon rainforest. The bulk of Amazon deforestation occurs in Brazil, although clearing is increasing in Peru due to infrastructure expansion and logging.

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CITATION: (November 28, 2008).

Amazon deforestation rises slightly to 4,600 square miles in 2008.