After years of gains against destruction of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil appears to be suffering from an increase in deforestation as farmers, loggers, miners and builders move into previously untouched woodland, according to data compiled by the government and independent researchers.
Imazon, a Brazilian research institute that tracks deforestation through satellite imagery, said in a recent report that destruction in the world’s largest rainforest climbed for the fourth consecutive month in December.
In the last five months of 2012, Imazon detected clearings of 497 square miles (1,288 square km) of woodland – a Los Angeles-size total that is more than twice as big as the combined areas detected in the last five months of 2011.
Preliminary data from Brazil’s space agency, which produces its own monthly estimates, also suggests an increase in deforestation between August and October, the last month for which its figures have been released.
Researchers and government officials say more data is needed to confirm that a full-fledged reversal is under way after what had been a sustained reduction in deforestation in recent years.
Among other variables, clouds from the ongoing rainy season hinder definitive imagery. Additional data could also clarify whether new gaps in the rainforest canopy are the result of deliberate clearcutting and fires or of natural thinning.
If the increase continues, it would confirm fears raised by scientists and ecologists that changes to Brazil’s environmental policies, growing inroads by developers and government-backed infrastructure projects are eroding gains in the fight to protect a region that has about 12 percent of the planet’s fresh water, is an abundant source of oxygen and is home to an untold number of plant and animal species.
“The context is ripe for the destruction to intensify,” said Paulo Moutinho, executive director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, a well-known not-for-profit group. “It’s clear that the levels could easily continue to grow.”
Government officials urge caution, noting the long-term trend in progress against deforestation. “It’s too early to sound an alarm,” said Francisco Oliveira, the director of policies against deforestation at Brazil’s environment ministry. “A fuller picture will emerge once the clouds are gone.”
Source | Reuters
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