Dec 8, 2012 update: Tim Killeen of WWF says that the analysis highlighted below appears to exclude extensive deforestation in part of Bolivia. See the comments for more details.
It’s not just Brazil where the deforestation rate is falling. Rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
The average annual rate of deforestation across Amazon rainforest countries dropped sharply in the second half of the 2000s, reports a comprehensive new assessment of the region’s forest cover and drivers of deforestation.
While the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been widely reported, several other Amazon countries saw their rates of forest loss drop as well, according to the report, which was published by a coalition of 11 Latin American civil society groups and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
The atlas shows the sharpest decline occurred in the tiny nation of Suriname, where deforestation fell 80 percent from 938 square kilometers between 2000 and 2005 to just 191 sq km between 2005 and 2010. Brazil (61 percent drop), Venezuela (46 percent), Ecuador (18 percent), Guyana (17 percent), and Bolivia (17 percent) followed. Brazil experienced the overall largest drop in deforestation in terms of overall area, going from 138,804 sq km to 54,181 sq km between the two periods.
Deforestation increased in Peru (4 percent), Colombia (32 percent), and French Guiana (40 percent).
Overall deforestation across the Amazon fell by 53 percent between the two periods. Meanwhile the extent of indigenous territories and protected areas also increased during the decade.
|Forest cover 2000 (sq km)||Deforestation 2000-2005 (sq km)||Deforestation 2005-2010 (sq km)||Change|
But the report’s results were’t entirely rosy. Pressure on forests from infrastructure projects is increasing. Roads are metastasizing across swathes of forest, providing access for loggers, farmers, ranchers, and land speculators to once remote areas. Large parts of the Amazon have also been granted for mining (52,000 ming areas covering 1.3 million sq km) and oil and gas development (327 lots covering 1.1 million sq km). Meanwhile some 246 dams, including 67 larger than 30 megawats, are planned for the region, threatening to choke off rivers that play a key role in the Amazon’s ecological processes.
Gold mining operation in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
“If all the overlapping economic interests become a reality over the next few years, Amazonia will become a savannah with islands of forest,” said RAISG’s general coordinator, Beto Ricardo of Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian NGO.
The atlas contains a wealth of data for each of the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon rainforest. It features tables, charts, and maps on forest cover, deforestation, the incidence of fire, dams, roads, mining concessions, oil and gas zones, indigenous territories, and protected areas. It also assesses key drivers of past and future deforestation in the region.
The RAISG network is comprised of The Amazon Conservation Team Suriname; the Direction de l’environnement, de l’aménagement et du logement – Guyane (French Guiana); EcoCiencia (Ecuador); Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (Bolivia); Fundación Gaia Amazonas (Colombia); Instituto del Bien Común (Peru); Instituto Centro de Vida – ICV (Brazil); IMAZON (Brazil); IVIC – Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (Venezuela); Provita (Venezuela); and ISA – Instituto Socioambiental (Brazil).
(08/21/2012) Countries across Latin America lost 78,000 square kilometers of subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests between 2001 and 2010, according to a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Biotropica.
(08/20/2012) Latin America lost nearly 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) of forest — an area larger than the state of Oregon — between 2001 and 2010, finds a new study that is the first to assess both net forest loss and regrowth across the Caribbean, Central and South America. The study, published in the journal Biotropica by researchers from the University of Puerto Rico and other institutions, analyzes change in vegetation cover across several biomes, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands. It finds that the bulk of vegetation change occurred in forest areas, mostly tropical rainforests and lesser-known dry forests. The largest gains in biome area occurred in desert vegetation and shrublands.
(03/14/2009) Warming climate could decimate up to 85 percent of the Amazon rainforest by 2150, according to a new computer model.
(03/05/2009) Drought in the Amazon is imperiling the rainforest ecosystem and global climate, reports new research published in Science. Analyzing the impact of the severe Amazon drought of 2005, a team of 68 researchers across 13 countries found evidence that rainfall-starved tropical forests lose massive amounts of carbon due to reduced plant growth and dying trees. The 2005 drought — triggered by warming in the tropical North Atlantic rather than el Niño — resulted in a net flux of 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Japan and Europe — relative to normal years when the Amazon is a net sink for 2 billion tons of CO2.
(07/31/2008) Between June 2000 and June 2008, more than 150,000 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon. While deforestation rates have slowed since 2004, forest loss is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This is a look at past, current and potential future drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
(02/27/2008) More than half the Amazon rainforest will be damaged or destroyed within 20 years if deforestation, forest fires, and climate trends continue apace, warns a study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Reviewing recent trends in economic, ecological and climatic processes in Amazonia, Daniel Nepstad and colleagues forecast that 55 percent of Amazon forests will be “cleared, logged, damaged by drought, or burned” in the next 20 years. The damage will release 15-26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to a feedback cycle that will worsen both warming and forest degradation in the region. While the projections are bleak, the authors are hopeful that emerging trends could reduce the likelihood of a near-term die-back. These include the growing concern in commodity markets on the environmental performance of ranchers and farmers; greater investment in fire control mechanisms among owners of fire-sensitive investments; emergence of a carbon market for forest-based offsets; and the establishment of protected areas in regions where development is fast-expanding.
(11/07/2007) While the mention of Amazon destruction usually conjures up images of vast stretches of felled and burned rainforest trees, cattle ranches, and vast soybean farms, some of the biggest threats to the Amazon rainforest are barely perceptible from above. Selective logging — which opens up the forest canopy and allows winds and sunlight to dry leaf litter on the forest floor — and 6-inch high “surface” fires are turning parts of the Amazon into a tinderbox, putting the world’s largest rainforest at risk of ever-more severe forest fires. At the same time, market-driven hunting is impoverishing some areas of seed dispersers and predators, making it more difficult for forests to recover. Climate change — an its forecast impacts on the Amazon basin — further looms large over the horizon.
(10/04/2007) A plan to link South America’s economies through a series of infrastructure projects, could destroy much of the Amazon rainforest, warns a new study by conservationists.