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Amazon deforestation in Brazil booms in August

Fire near the Manicoré River in Amazonas state in August 2022. Photo © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

Fire near the Manicoré River in Amazonas state in August 2022. Photo © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

  • Rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 11% in August with deforestation reaching 1,661 square kilometers (641 square miles) — an area more than 28 times the size of Manhattan — according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency, INPE.
  • The tally brings rainforest clearing detected in the Brazilian Amazon since the beginning of the year by INPE’s deforestation alert system to 7,135 square kilometers, the highest on record dating back to 2008.
  • About 80% of August’s deforestation occurred in just three states: Para (41%), Mato Grosso (20%), and Amazonas (19%).
  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been trending higher since 2012 and has especially accelerated since 2019, when Jair Bolsonaro became president.

Rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon exploded in August with deforestation reaching 1,661 square kilometers (641 square miles) — an area more than 28 times the size of Manhattan — according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency, INPE.

The tally brings rainforest clearing detected in the Brazilian Amazon since the beginning of the year by INPE’s deforestation alert system to 7,135 square kilometers, the highest on record dating back to 2008.

Deforestation detected during the month of August for 2007 to 2022, according to INPE’s DETER system.
Deforestation between Jan 1 and Aug 31 2008-2022, according to INPE’s DETER system.
Monthly and 12-month- moving average data for deforestation alert data from Imazon’s SAD system and INPE’s DETER system. Imazon is a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks deforestation in the Amazon.

Deforestation increased 81% over August 2021. It was the second highest amount of deforestation for any August since 2006: Only 2019 — the year that fires in the Amazon made global headlines — exceeded this past August in terms of deforestation.

About 80% of August’s deforestation occurred in just three states: Para (41%), Mato Grosso (20%), and Amazonas (19%).

The data comes just days after INPE reported that the Amazon this past August experienced the most fires since 2010. On August 22 alone, satellites registered more than 3,300 fire alerts, the highest single-day tally in 15 years.

In flyovers of the states of Amazonas, Acre, and Rondônia during August, Greenpeace captured dramatic images of forests going up in flames. Photo © Nilmar Lage / Greenpeace
Fire near the Manicoré River in Amazonas state in August 2022. Photo © Christian Braga / Greenpeace
Fire near the Manicoré River in Amazonas state in August 2022. Photo © Christian Braga / Greenpeace

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been tracking higher since 2012. Forest clearing hit a 15-year last year, topping 13,000 square kilometers, an area nearly the size of the state of Maryland or the country Montenegro. The accounting for deforestation that’s occurred over the past year is expected this fall.

Deforestation in the Amazon accelerated after President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 following a campaign where he advocated for increased mining, industrial agriculture, logging, and energy extraction in the region.

The Bolsonaro administration has since followed through on that pledge, cutting environmental law enforcement budgets, granting amnesty for illegal deforestation, opening protected areas and Indigenous lands to extractive activities, and using heated rhetoric against scientists, environmental activists, and Indigenous rights defenders.

Fire and deforestation in the Amacro region (the states of Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia) in the Brazilian Amazon in late August 2022. Photo © Nilmar Lage / Greenpeace
Fire near the Manicoré River in Amazonas state in August 2022. Photo © Christian Braga / Greenpeace
Fire and deforestation in the Amacro region (the states of Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia) in the Brazilian Amazon in late August 2022. Photo © Nilmar Lage / Greenpeace

More than 17 percent of the Brazilian Amazon has been cleared since the late 1970s. Scientists say there are signs the giant rainforest is transitioning toward a drier, more fire-prone ecosystem due to the combined effects of climate change, forest degradation, and deforestation.

Brazil accounts for more than three-fifths of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest.

Update (9/10/22): The title of the chart showing deforestation between Jan 1 and Aug 31 2008-2022 was corrected to reflect the inclusion of 2021 and this sentence, “Deforestation increased 81% over August 2021” was amended to clarify the month over month increase, rather than the 11% year over year increase for the period.