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Ahead of election, deforestation increased in Brazil

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 Amazon rainforest is surging ahead of the presidential election in Brazil.
  • According to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon topped 1,450 square kilometers in September, a 48% increase over last year. 
  • Deforestation through the first nine months of 2022 has amounted to 8,590 square kilometers, the highest such tally on record since the current deforestation alert system was established in 2007.

Update: Shortly after this story was published, INPE updated the September data. The numbers have been revised accordingly.

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is surging ahead of the presidential election in Brazil.

According to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached 1,454 square kilometers in September, a 48% increase over last year.

Deforestation through the first nine months of 2022 has amounted to 8,590 square kilometers, the highest such tally on record since the current deforestation alert system was established in 2007. By comparison, at this point last year, when deforestation ultimately hit the highest level in 15 years, 7,010 square kilometers had been cleared.

Deforestation alert data from INPE’s DETER system for Jan 1-Sep 30. since 2008

The news is significant because the second round of the presidential election pits the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismantled the infrastructure that underpins conservation in the Amazon while presiding over a sharp increase in deforestation, against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who oversaw a sharp drop in Amazon forest clearing and has made saving the Amazon a key part of his bid for the presidency. Lula has proposed a forest conservation alliance between Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the countries that account for the majority share of the world’s tropical rainforests.

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 monitors deforestation.

The new deforestation data came just days after INPE reported the highest number of fires for any September since at least 2010. INPE recorded 41,282 in the Amazon during the month.

Scientists have warned that deforestation and the effects of climate change are pushing the Amazon toward a tipping point where large swathes of rainforest transition to dry forest and savanna. Such a development would have dire implications for biodiversity, global climate, and rainforest patterns across South America.

The Amazon is Earth’s largest tropical rainforest. Brazil accounts for more the 60% of the Amazon.

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