Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon — the planet’s largest rainforest — continues to pace well ahead of last year’s rate, reveals data released by Imazon, a Manaus-based nonprofit.
According to Imazon’s analysis of satellite data, March 2015 was the eleventh consecutive month that forest loss increased relative to a year earlier. March 2015’s loss of 58 square kilometers (14,300 acres) was 190 percent higher than March 2014.
November through April is typically a period of low deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon due to heavy rainfall. Detection during those months is also difficult due to high levels of cloud cover.
Deforestation typically peaks during the dry season from July through September or October. Brazil measures annual deforestation for the year ending July 31, when cloud cover is at a minimum.
The monthly data from Imazon — generated via the “SAD” system — is used for monitoring short-term trends in Amazon forest cover. Like the Brazilian government’s “DETER” system (numbers will next be released in May), the monthly data isn’t as precise as the annual measure. Nonetheless, both short-term systems support law enforcement action, enabling authorities to pinpoint problem areas and potentially arrest illegal loggers and ranchers.
The edge of a tract of forest in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The area beyond has been cleared for industrial agriculture. Photo by Rhett Butler
While the rate of loss in the Brazilian Amazon is sharply higher than last year, it is still well below levels between the 1980s and early 2010s. Nevertheless, the increase has alarmed environmentalists who fear that recent progress in curbing deforestation may reverse.
Green groups are particularly concerned about efforts to weaken Brazil’s environmental policies, including its Forest Code and protections afforded indigenous peoples. Additionally, macroeconomic trends may be a factor, with the weakening Brazilian economy and currency making agricultural expansion more attractive for investors.