Data released by the Brazilian government Friday confirms an increase in Amazon forest loss.
Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, INPE, updated data from its near-real-time deforestation tracking system, known as DETER. The system showed a near five-fold increase in forest loss during May 2013 relative to a year earlier, from 99 square kilometers to 465 sq km. 59 percent of the clearing occurred in Mato Grosso, a state in the Southern Amazon where large-scale farms and cattle ranching drive most deforestation. Pará accounted for 29 percent of deforestation.
INPE’s data shows that deforestation is pacing 14 percent higher (2,329 sq km versus 2,051 sq km) than last year, when forest loss was the lowest since annual record-keeping began in the late 1980s.
INPE’s data provides confirmation of a report issued last month by Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO, which showed an 89 percent increase in deforestation, from 873 sq km between August 2011 and May 2012 to 1,654 sq km between August 2012 and May 2013. Imazon uses the same data but employs a different methodology for estimating change in forest cover.
Both near-real-time systems aren’t as accurate as the systems used for tracking annual deforestation, which is measured at the peak of the dry season each year when cloud cover is at a minimum. The shorter-term tools, which have relatively coarse resolution, are used mostly for alerting authorities on the location of forest clearing, rather than measuring changes in forest cover.
The reason for the rise in deforestation are still unclear, but one factor could be last year’s relaxation of the country’s Forest Code, which limits how much forest can be cleared on private lands in the Amazon. Brazil’s currency, the real, has also weakened since last April, making its agricultural exports more competitive and more profitable for farmers.
More than 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest — Earth’s largest tropical forest — is located in Brazil. Most other Amazon countries have experienced a rise in deforestation since 2011.