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Deforestation rate climbs higher as Amazon moves into the burning season

Planet images showing fire on recently deforested near Itaúba in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil on June 29, 2020.

Planet images showing fire on recently deforested near Itaúba in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil on June 29, 2020.

  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon climbed higher for the fifteenth straight month, reaching levels not seen since the mid-2000s, according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE.
  • INPE’s satellite-based deforestation alert system detected 1,034 square kilometers of forest clearing during June 2020 bringing the twelve-month total to 9,564 sq km, 89% higher than a year ago.
  • The extent of deforestation over the past year is the highest on record since INPE started releasing monthly numbers in 2007.
  • The 12-month deforestation rate has risen 96% since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon climbed higher for the fifteenth straight month, reaching levels not seen since the mid-2000s, according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE. The news comes as the region moves into the dry season, when deforestation and forest fires typically accelerate.

INPE’s satellite-based deforestation alert system detected 1,034 square kilometers of forest clearing during June 2020 bringing the twelve-month total to 9,564 sq km, 89% higher than a year ago. The extent of deforestation over the past year is the highest recorded since INPE started releasing monthly numbers in 2007.

The 12-month deforestation rate has risen 96% since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.

Under pressure from big companies and the E.U. over rising deforestation and fire risk in the Amazon, the Bolsonaro Administration on Wednesday decreed a 120-day ban on fires in the Amazon. The administration had already deployed the army to the region to try to rein in burning, but fires are already well underway despite it being early in the dry season, according to analysis of satellite data by Amazon Conservation’s MAAP project.

MAAP found there are have been 14 major fires in the Amazon this year through July 2nd. MAAP’s analysis excludes fires in pasture and scrub lands, providing a clearer picture on fires associated with recent deforestation and in existing forest.

Planet image showing fire on recently deforested land near Itaúba in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil on June 29, 2020. Fire identified by MAAP. Image courtesy of Planet.

Deforestation has been trending upward in the Brazilian Amazon since 2012, but the rate of loss has dramatically accelerated over the past year-and-a-half as the Bolsonaro Administration has relaxed law enforcement, stripped conservation areas and indigenous lands of protection, promoted mining and industrial forest conversion, and tried to pass policies weakening environmental safeguards in the region.

Scientists have warned that the Amazon rainforest may be approaching a tipping point where the forest shifts toward a drier, savanna-like ecosystem. Such a transition could have significant and sustained impacts on local and regional rainfall patterns, while triggering the release of vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.