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Brazilian deforestation lower in 2012 to date

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is lower in 2012 relative to the same period last year according to satellite-based data released by Imazon, an NGO.

Imazon’s Deforestation Alert System (SAD) detected 830 square kilometers of clearing between August 2011 to April 2012, down about 35 percent from the 1268 square kilometers recorded at this time last year. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last year was the lowest since annual record keeping began in the late 1980s.

Imazon’s deforestation tracking system also found a sharp decline in forest degradation, which often proceeds outright deforestation. Forest degradation is typically the result of logging and fire.

Brazil measures its annual deforestation at the end of July during the dry season when cloud cover is at a minimum. Final data is typically released in December. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon usually peaks in the July-September period.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen nearly 80 percent since 2004. Factors include stepped-up law enforcement, incentives for utilizing already deforested lands, an increase in the extent of protected areas and indigenous reserves, better monitoring of forest areas, emerging payments for ecosystem services programs, and macroeconomic trends that make Brazilian agricultural products more expensive for export, reducing profitability. But environmentalists fear that proposed changes to the country’s Forest Code, which mandates how much forest a landowner is required to maintain, could reverse progress in reducing deforestation.

Brazil accounts for more than 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest.

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