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Despite severe drought, Amazon deforestation continues to slow

This Planet satellite image shows how extreme drought in the Amazon has reduced the Rio Negro to a trickle. Image Ⓒ 2023 Planet Labs PBC

This Planet satellite image shows how extreme drought in the Amazon has reduced the Rio Negro to a trickle. Image Ⓒ 2023 Planet Labs PBC

  • Despite a severe drought, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is still on the decline, according to data released today Brazil’s national space research institute (INPE).
  • INPE’s near-real-time deforestation monitoring system, DETER, detected 629 square kilometers of forest clearing in September, a 57% drop from last September.
  • This decline in forest loss has occurred despite a severe drought that is affecting vast swathes of the Brazilian Amazon, drying up rivers and worsening the spread of agricultural fires.

Despite a severe drought that is exacerbating fires and drying up rivers, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is still on the decline, according to data released today by INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute.

INPE’s near-real-time deforestation monitoring system, DETER, detected 629 square kilometers of forest clearing in September. This is 57% less than the 1,455 square kilometers of rainforest cleared in September 2022.

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.
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 cumulative deforestation detected by DETER over the past 12 months is 6,029 square kilometers, marking a 39% decrease from the 9,803 square kilometers reported during the same period last year. DETER’s deforestation tally through the first nine months of 2023 amounts to 4,341 square kilometers, a decline of 49% from last year.

Deforestation alert data from INPE's DETER system for Jan 1-Sept 30 since 2009.
Deforestation alert data from INPE’s DETER system for Jan 1-Sept 30 since 2009.

Deforestation rates have now consistently decreased for six consecutive months.

This decline in forest loss is noteworthy, especially as large portions of the Brazilian Amazon are grappling with an extreme drought, which has dried up rivers and enabled agricultural fires to spread into rainforests. Smoke from the fires drove air pollution in Manuas to dangerous levels this week.

This Planet satellite image shows how extreme drought in the Amazon has reduced the Rio Negro to a trickle.
This Planet satellite image shows how extreme drought in the Amazon has reduced the Rio Negro to a trickle. Image Ⓒ 2023 Planet Labs PBC

Carlos Durigan, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Brazil Country Director, called the situation in the state of Amazonas a “crisis”.

“The Amazon Biome in Brazil is facing an unprecedented environmental and humanitarian crisis due to extreme drought, deforestation and increasingly frequent forest fires, intensified by global warming associated with the climate crisis and an intense El Niño. International research indicates that the climate crisis induced by human causes is amplified by El Niño and their combined impact is generating the most intense drought in the history of the state of Amazonas, roughly the size of the combined area of France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom combined,” Durigan said in a statement. “These extreme climatic events have caused severe impacts on natural landscapes and ecosystems across the state, with profound impacts on human health and wellbeing, and the survival of wildlife populations.”

Last week, Local scientists reported the death of 141 hundreds of river dolphins in Lake Tefé due to scorching temperatures.

Researchers have been warning for decades the combination of deforestation and rising temperatures from climate change could trigger a tipping point in the Amazon where large areas of rainforest are replaced by dry scrub forest and savanna. Such a transition would drive dramatic shifts in rainfall patterns across the continent, doom untold numbers of species to extinction, and release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

 

Related coverage of deforestation trends:

Brazil strikes intruders of Amazon’s most deforested Indigenous land

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