Conservation news

Brazil revises Amazon deforestation 6% upward

  • The Brazilian government has revised upward its estimate for the extent of Amazon rainforest destroyed last year.
  • Figures released last week by Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) put Amazon deforestation at 6,207 square kilometers for the year ended July 31, 2015.
  • The upward revision in the prior year’s deforestation rate is not unusual.

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The Brazilian government has revised upward its estimate for the extent of Amazon rainforest destroyed last year.

Figures released last week by Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) put Amazon deforestation at 6,207 square kilometers for the year ended July 31, 2015. That represents an increase of 6.5 percent relative to the estimate of 5,831 square kilometers published last December.

The figure, which is the highest annual loss in the Brazilian Amazon since 2011, does not include any forest clearing that has happened since August 1, 2015. Other deforestation monitoring systems, including separate near real-time systems run by INPE and Brazilian NGO Imazon, suggest there has been a sharp increase in forest destruction since then.

The upward revision in the prior year’s deforestation rate is not unusual. INPE does a quick estimate a few months after the end of the dry season in the Amazon when satellites have the clearest view of the region. Its scientists then spend several months doing a more detailed analysis of satellite imagery to come up with a final estimate. The 2016 data is expected to be released around the beginning of December.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is thought to be on the rise after more than a decade of decline. Factors that may be behind the rising deforestation rate include dry conditions in the Amazon, a weakened Brazilian currency that makes agricultural exports more profitable, and political efforts to roll back environmental regulations.

Brazil accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, Earth’s biggest tropical forest.

Deforestation around the Xingu Basin in Mato Grosso and Para in the Brazilian Amazon. Courtesy of Google Earth / NASA.
Deforestation in Acre and Rondonia in the Brazilian Amazon. Courtesy of Google Earth / NASA.