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New maps reveal causes of Amazon deforestation

New maps reveal causes of Amazon deforestation

New maps reveal causes of Amazon deforestation
January 26, 2007

Brazil’s National Statistics Office (IBGE) released a set of maps showing how farmers are converting the Amazon rainforest into cattle pasture and soybean farms.

The maps show for the first time the impact of deforestation and agricultural expansion on the Amazon rainforest, according to the agency.

“The maps constitute an important tool for measuring the impact of these activities, notably cattle ranching and soybean farming,” said IBGE in a statement.

Top: land use in the legal Amazon (click photo to enlarge). Bottom: Indigenous reserves and populations in the Legal Amazon. Maps courtesy of IBGE

The maps reveal that Rondônia state, at 28.5 percent, has the highest percentage of forest loss of any state in the legal Amazon. IBGE says that until 1978, Rondônia had lost only 1.76 percent of its forest cover. In absolute terms, the state of Pará had the highest amount of forest loss at 207,000 square kilometers, mostly along the Trans-Amazon highway and the BR-163 road that connects the region with Mato Grosso and southern Brazil. Amapá has the lowest rate of forest loss — about 0.5 percent of its territory had been cleared.

The agency cites population growth resulting from government migration programs, development of the logging industry, agricultural fires, and infrastructure development as the main drivers of deforestation. It says that agricultural expansion is occurring mostly in Tocantins, Maranhao and in some parts of Amazonas, Roraima and Rondonia states and that pig iron and illegal mining are threats to Altamira National Forest in western Pará.

The maps also incorporate “sociocultural diversity”, showing population distribution and the boundaries of indigenous reserves that have been established across more than a quarter of the 3.8 million square kilometer region. IBGE says that migrants now make up more than half the population in cities that lie near the major roads in the Amazon: “BR-364 (Rondônia and the northwest of Mato Grosso), BR-163 (north of Mato Grosso and southwest of Pará), PA-150 (Southeastern of Pará), MT-158 (east of Mato Grosso) and BR-174 (Roraima)” and that Manaus has the largest population of migrants. Many of the migrants arrived in the 1970s and 1980s under Brazilian government programs that encouraged colonization of the Amazon by poor farmers.

1200×841 version

Update: Bloomberg (“Brazil Amazon Lost 13% of Virgin Forest in 2000-2003” by Adriana Brasileiro) says the Brazilian Amazon lost “13.3 percent of its virgin forest from 2000 to 2003” or 665,945 square kilometers of primary forest, an area equivalent to the size of Italy and Germany together. I believe Bloomberg has made an error. 665,945 square kilometers probably refers to the total amount of primary forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon.

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This article used information from a IBGE news release.