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Indepedent watchdog confirms rampant deforestation in the Amazon

Candeias do Jamari, Rondônia state.Greenpeace Brazil flew over the southern Amazonas and northern Rondônia states in Brazil to monitor deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon in July 2022. © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

Candeias do Jamari, Rondônia state. Greenpeace Brazil flew over the southern Amazonas and northern Rondônia states in Brazil to monitor deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon in July 2022. © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

  • Data from independent forest monitoring group Imazon has confirmed that deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest is on track to approach the highest level in 15 years.
  • Imazon’s monthly deforestation alert system detected 10,781 square kilometers of forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon betwen August 2021 to July 2022, a 3% rise over the same period last year when forest destruction reached the highest level since 2006.
  • Imazon’s update came shortly after INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute, published its own deforestation alert-based data.
  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been on an upward trend since 2012.

Deforestation is on track to register a near-15-year-high in the Brazilian Amazon according to data published earlier this month by Imazon, an organization that independently monitors forest loss in Earth’s largest rainforest.

Imazon’s monthly deforestation alert system detected 10,781 square kilometers (4,163 square miles) of forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2021 to July 2022, a 3% rise over the same period last year. The loss represents an area roughly equivalent to the size of Jamaica, Kosovo, or Lebanon.

Deforestation alert data from Imazon’s SAD system and INPE’s DETER system for the Aug 1-Jul 31 period since mid-2007 as well as the annual INPE PRODES figure, which is based on analysis of higher resolution satellite imagery than used by the alert systems.

Imazon’s update came shortly after INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute, published its own deforestation alert-based numbers, which were nearly identical to those of the previous year.

Taken together, the two datasets suggest that forest loss for the past year in the Brazilian Amazon — which accounts for roughly two-thirds of forest cover in the Amazon rainforest — will likely be around that of 2021, when deforestation hit a 15-year high, once the preliminary analysis using higher resolution satellite data is completed in November or December.

Monthly and 12-month moving average deforestation alert data from Imazon’s SAD system and INPE’s DETER system.

According to Imazon, the states of Pará and Amazonas accounted for more than 60% of the area where deforestation was detected by its alert system. Pará state typically has the highest extent of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon, but Amazonas state has seen its rate of loss sharply accelerate in recent years as the deforestation frontier shifts westward and northward from the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso. The vast majority of forest clearing in these states is to establish cattle pasture to produce beef or speculate on appreciating land prices.

Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, according to data from INPE, Brazil’s national space research agency.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been on an upward trend since 2012 and has particularly increased since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

Scientists fear the region may be approaching a tipping point where vast swathes of the Amazon become too dry to sustain rainforest, triggering large-scale forest die-off and an increase in forest fires. Such a transition would have significant impacts on regional agricultural production and electricity generation, while also releasing billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Header image: Candeias do Jamari, Rondônia state. Greenpeace Brazil flew over the southern Amazonas and northern Rondônia states in Brazil to monitor deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon in July 2022. © Christian Braga / Greenpeace