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Deforestation rate falls across Amazon rainforest countries

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.

Rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon
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
Bolivia 307,123 4,187 3,494 -16.6%
Brazil 3,110,668 138,804 54,181 -61.0%
Colombia 428,498 5,170 6,816 31.8%
Ecuador 88,361 1,171 965 -17.6%
Guyana 140,411 1,800 1,488 -17.3%
French Guiana 79,916 210 293 39.5%
Peru 700,738 7,365 7,674 4.2%
Suriname 130,719 938 191 -79.6%
Venezuela 370,567 3,375 1,820 -46.1%
Amazon (total) 5,357,001 163,020 76,922 -52.8%

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).

CITATION: RAISG 2012. Amazonía bajo presión [PDF-Spanish} and Amazonía bajo presión [PDF-English}

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