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Amazon deforestation rises modestly in June

Planet image of Altamira (-5.79, -53.69) in the State of Pará, Brazil taken on August 8, 2020. Courtesy of Planet.

Planet image of Altamira (-5.79, -53.69) in the State of Pará, Brazil taken on August 8, 2020. Courtesy of Planet.

  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continued on an upward trajectory in June, reports the country’s national space research institute INPE.
  • INPE’s satellite-based forest monitoring system detected 1,062 square kilometers of deforestation during June, an area 311 times the size of New York City’s Central Park.
  • The forest clearing represents a 2% rise over June a year ago. Deforestation has now risen three consecutive months in the region, but is pacing 11% behind last year’s rate, when forest loss in Earth’s largest rainforest reached a 12-year high.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continued on an upward trajectory in June, reports the country’s national space research institute INPE.

INPE’s satellite-based forest monitoring system detected 1,062 square kilometers (410 square miles) of deforestation during June, a two percent rise over a year ago.

Deforestation has now risen three consecutive months in the region, but is pacing 11% behind last year’s pace, when forest loss in Earth’s largest rainforest reached a 12-year high.

Monthly deforestation alert data from INPE’s DETER system and Imazon’s SAD system. Imazon independently tracks deforestation to provide a check against official Brazilian government data.

Dry conditions across much of Brazil have raised concerns that this year’s fire season, which typically runs from July through October, could be particularly severe. While the number of fire hotspots this year are about 25% below the five year average through June 30, the Amazon Conservation Association’s Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) has detected at least 24 major fires in the past two months. Nearly all those fires have occurred on land that was deforested in 2020.

Fire hotspots detected by INPE in the legal Amazon. Hotspots are not indicative of forest fires – most occur outside forest.
MAAP’s real-time Amazon fire monitoring app shows the location of the 2021 major Amazon fires (orange dots), concentrated in the southeastern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Image courtesy of MAAP.

Worries about the likelihood of an intense fire season coupled with mounting pressure from Brazilian companies and investors as well as complaints from abroad about rising deforestation prompted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to sign a decree on June 23 to mobilize the army to combat illegal clearing. It’s the third year in a row that Bolsonaro has called soldiers into the region to control deforestation, which has surged since he took office in the beginning in 2019.

Deforestation registered under INPE’s DETER system for the first 30 months of three recent administrations. Rousseff’s second term is combined with Temer’s administration.

Scientists have warned that deforestation, forest degradation, and the impacts of climate change could drive large-scale die-off of the Amazon in coming decades, transforming vast swathes of the rainforest into a savanna-like landscape. Such a development would release tens of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, destabilize regional precipitation patterns affecting agriculture and power production, and drive widespread extinction of forest-dependent species. Mounting evidence suggests this transition is already underway in the Amazon’s southern reaches.

Note: Mongabay tracks INPE and Imazon data at Amazon Monitoring.

Header image: Planet image of Altamira (-5.79, -53.69) in the State of Pará, Brazil taken on August 8, 2020. Courtesy of Planet.