- Deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest decreased by 22% in the year ending July 31, 2023, according to data released on Thursday by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE).
- INPE’s analysis of satellite imagery found that forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon totaled 9,001 square kilometers, an area approximately the size of Puerto Rico.
- INPE’s estimate is preliminary. Final data for the “deforestation year” is expected to come out in the second quarter of 2024.
- Nevertheless, the data is seen as a sign that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s efforts to curb deforestation is having an effect after a period of rising forest loss under Jair Bolsonaro.
Deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest decreased by 22% in the year ending July 31, 2023, according to data released on Thursday by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE).
The analysis of satellite imagery by INPE revealed that forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon totaled 9,001 square kilometers, an area approximately the size of Puerto Rico. This marks the first time annual deforestation in the Amazon has fallen below 10,000 square kilometers since 2018.
This decrease is seen as a sign that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s efforts to curb deforestation are taking effect, following a significant increase in forest loss during the tenure of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula has reinstated programs to monitor and control deforestation, restarted conservation initiatives, forged alliances with other tropical forest nations, and committed Brazil to eliminating illegal deforestation by 2030.
Deforestation in the Amazon nevertheless remains significantly higher than levels seen in the early to mid-2010s. Additionally, a vast swathe of the Amazon is currently experiencing a severe drought, which scientists attribute to the combined effects of climate change and historical deforestation in the region.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was concentrated in three states which in recent years have accounted for the bulk of agricultural expansion in the region: Pará (36.4%), Mato Grosso (23.2%), and Amazonas (17.3%). Of those states, only Mato Grosso experienced a rise in deforestation relative to 2022.
The decline in deforestation was a bit of welcome good news for conservationists in a year when the Amazon is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record.
The drought has stranded communities, brought river transportation to a standstill, and killed untold numbers of animals, including 154 dolphins in Lake Tefé when temperatures topped 39°C (102°F).
Scientists have long warned that rising temperatures resulting from climate change, forest degradation, and deforestation will increase the risk of drought across the Amazon. Drought in the region tends to be particularly acute during El Niño events.
Downward deforestation trend continuing
On Friday, INPE provided an update on data from its near-real-time deforestation detection system (DETER) which showed that forest clearing in the Amazon has continued to plunge since the end of the July. According to DETER, the area deforested in October 2023 amounted to 434 square kilometers, a 52% drop from last October.
Accumulated deforestation detected by DETER for the year through the end of October stands at 4,775 square kilometers, down 50% relative to the same period last year.
INPE’s figures are in line with data from Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks deforestation.
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