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Amazon deforestation flat since last year

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is roughly flat for the 7 months ended February 28 relative to the same period last year, reports Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.

Using its the near real-term alert component of its satellite-based deforestation tracking system, Imazon found accumulated deforestation between August 2010 to February 2011 amounted to roughly 925 square kilometers, virtually identical to the 924 square kilometers detected between August 2009-February 2010. But degradation — forest that has been selectively logged, affected by fire, or otherwise damaged — increased by more than 300 percent to 3,836 square kilometers over the year-earlier period.

But Imazon is cautious to draw conclusions from the data. Intra-year estimates for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon are notoriously difficult to assess due to cloud cover, distinctions between degradation and deforestation, seasonal variations, and other variables. Figures are usually reconciled each August using a different methodology that relies on higher resolution imagery. INPE, Brazil’s space research agency, generally publishes these results towards the end of the year.

Deforestation from Aug 2010-Feb 2011 and Aud 2009-Feb 2010

Forest degradation from Aug 2010-Feb 2011 and Aud 2009-Feb 2010

Most analysts had been expecting a rise in Amazon deforestation due to rising commodity prices, although a strengthening real has offset much of the price appreciation. Another factor that could be impacting forest clearing in Brazil is the commitment among major players in the cattle industry to stop buying from ranches involved in deforestation. The restriction was brought about by a Greenpeace campaign and threats by state prosecutors in June 2009.

Under its national climate action plan, Brazil has set an ambitious target to reduce its deforestation rate. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last year was more than 75 percent lower than its last peak in 2004.

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