This page collects deforestation alert data published by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Imazon, a Brazilian NGO. INPE’s system is called DETER for Sistema de Detecção do Desmatamento na Amazônia Legal em Tempo Real, while Imazon’s system is called SAD for Sistema de Alerta de Deforestation.
As explained here, month-to-month deforestation is highly variable. Short-term, alert-based deforestation detection systems do not penetrate cloud cover, so during the rainy season — from roughly November to April — estimates are notoriously unreliable when compared to the same month a year earlier. Furthermore, most forest clearing in the Amazon occurs when it is dry. So if the dry season is early, deforestation may increase earlier than normal. For these reasons, the most accurate deforestation comparisons are made year-on-year. For Brazil, the deforestation “year” ends July 31: the peak of the dry season when the largest extent of forest is typically visible via satellite.
Short-term data isn’t useless though — it can provide insights on trends, especially over longer periods of time. Generally, comparing 12 consecutive months of alert data will provide a pretty good indication of deforestation relative to other years. Therefore the charts below include monthly data as well as the 12-month moving average (Trailing Twelve Months = “TTM”).
Last update: 2020-Aug-8
Table: Monthly deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
|Month||DETER||DETER TTM||SAD||SAD TTM|
In August 2016, the table data for the DETER columns switches from DETER to DETER-B, Brazil’s new deforestation detection system.
‘Digital land grab’ deprives traditional LatAm peoples of ancestral lands: Report
- South American nations, including Brazil and Colombia, are increasingly using georeferencing technology for registering land ownership.- However, if this high-tech digital technique is not backed up by traditional ground truthing surveys, it can be used by landgrabbers and agribusiness companies to fraudulently obtain deeds depriving traditional communities of their collective ancestral lands, according to a new report.- The georeferenced process is being partly funded by the World Bank, which has provided US $45.5 million for digital registration of private rural properties in Brazil. Georeferencing is allowing the international financial sector to play a key role in converting large tracts of rainforest and savanna into agribusiness lands.- To prevent this form of land theft, prospective landowners’ claims need to be independently verified via a centralized governmental land registration system organized to resolve land conflicts and to detect and eliminate local and regional corruption.
Colombia, ethnobotany, and America’s decline: An interview with Wade Davis
- Wade Davis is a celebrated anthropologist, ethnobotanist, photographer, and author who has written thought-provoking accounts of indigenous cultures around the world. Through his writing, Davis has documented the disappearance of indigenous languages and cultures, the loss of which is outpacing the destruction of the world’s rainforests.- Davis’s newest book, Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia, traces the path of the Magdalena River as a vehicle to tell the story of Colombia, including the nation’s tumultuous recent past, the tenuous peace of its present, and its future promise. Colombia holds a special place for Davis: it trails only Brazil in terms of biodiversity, is geographically and culturally diverse, and has gone to great lengths to recognize indigenous rights and protect its forests.- Davis’s research into Colombia, indigenous cultures, and other societies has given him an unusually broad perspective with which to evaluate recent developments in the United States, which he compared to a collapsing empire in a commentary he authored in August for Rolling Stone.- Davis talked about his career path, his new book, and the decline of America in an October 2020 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.
Brazil reports lower deforestation, higher fires in September
- Brazil’s national space research institute INPE reported a third straight monthly drop in Amazon deforestation in September, but its data also showed a sharp increase in the area affect by fires.- According to INPE’s deforestation alert system, deforestation in the “legal Amazon” during the month of September amounted to 964 square kilometers, down 34% from September 2019. That follows a 27% decline in July and a 21% decline in August relative to a year ago when deforestation in the region hit the highest level since 2008.- However the reported decline in recent months does not match the trend reported by Imazon, an independent NGO, which reported increases of more than 30% in July and August, but hasn’t published September analysis yet. The discrepancy could be due to the different methodologies used by the two systems, though normally INPE and Imazon’s data show strong correlation.- Since January, INPE has reported more than 7,000 square kilometers of deforestation in the Amazon, down 10% from the same period last year, but the second highest on record since 2008.
Mining covers more than 20% of Indigenous territory in the Amazon
- A new report from the World Resources Institute and the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network reveals that mining has impacted more than 20% of the Amazon’s Indigenous territory.- The analysis shows that deforestation rates are as much as three times higher on Indigenous lands with mining compared to those without.- The study’s authors suggest that improved law enforcement, greater investment in Indigenous communities and stricter environmental protections are necessary to combat the surge of mining in the Amazon.
As Brazil burns, Indigenous fire brigades face an uncertain future
- More than 1,000 Indigenous people volunteer as firefighters throughout Brazil, protecting 14 million hectares (35 million acres) of Indigenous lands.- However, in a year of record fires, the very continuity of the Indigenous fire brigades is at risk, with the government failing to provide the coordination, recognition, funding or support that they need.- Fire-prevention measures that were supposed to start in April, before the dry season, were instead delayed to July, once the burning had already begun, with the COVID-19 pandemic one of the factors blamed for the delay.- Insiders in the federal agencies overseeing environmental protection and Indigenous affairs also point to an official culture of neglect of Indigenous communities, which in many cases has forced Indigenous firefighters to work unpaid.
In a drier Amazon, small farmers and researchers work together to reduce fire damage
- Traditional Amazonian communities have used fire for centuries to open up small farming plots in a rotational system that allows the forest to regenerate and biodiversity to be preserved.- By contrast, the fires used to clear livestock pasture or to clear away vegetation after forest clearing tend to burn uncontrolled and permanently destroy vast swaths of the rainforest.- With the climate crisis rendering the forest drier and more flammable, villagers living alongside the Tapajós River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon, have had increasing difficulty maintaining their traditional fire management practice.- Traditional safeguards such as creating fire breaks can help, but a project in the Brazilian state of Pará is bringing residents and researchers together to both create a fire warning and prediction system and transition away from the use of fire for farming.
The Amazon savanna? Rainforest teeters on the brink as climate heats up
- A new study has found that 40% of the Amazon is at risk of turning into savanna due to decreases in rainfall.- The paper’s authors used satellite data, climate simulations and hydrological models to better understand the dynamics of rainfall across the tropics and their impacts on the stability of tropical forest ecosystems.- The team’s simulations suggest that sustained high greenhouse gas emissions through the end of the century could shrink the minimum size of the Amazon by 66%.
The murky process of licensing Amazonian meat plants
- Decades of growth in cattle ranching have meant that Pará is now the state with the largest herd nationwide. At 20.6 million heads, it has 2.5 cattle for every human inhabitant.- 14 of the 22 Brazilian meat plants approved to export to China since 2019 are in the Amazon.
Stock indices let Brazil meatpackers shed ties to deforestation, draw investors
- The prominent placement of Brazil’s three biggest meatpackers — JBS, Marfrig and Minerva — on the country’s stock exchange indices has seen them net $121 million in investments.- These investments are made through funds that track the various stock exchange indices, whose makeup is ostensibly determined by a company’s performance and management.- These meatpackers, whose operations are closely associated with deforestation and land grabbing in the Amazon, receive investments even through funds geared toward environmentally and socially responsible companies.
Forest degradation outpaces deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Study
- Brazilian Amazon deforestation rates have declined from, and stayed below, their 2003 peak, despite recent increases. However, this decline was offset by a trend of increased forest degradation, according to an analysis of 23 years of satellite data. By 2014, the rate of degradation overtook deforestation, driven by increases in logging and understory burning.- During the 1992-2014 study period, 337,427 square kilometers suffered a loss of vegetation, compared to 308,311 square kilometers completely cleared, a finding that has serious implications for global greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.- Forest degradation has been connected to outbreaks of infectious diseases as a result of increased contact between humans and displaced wildlife. Degradation can also facilitate the emergence of new diseases and some experts warn that the Amazon could be the source of the next pandemic.- These findings could have major implications for Brazilian national commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as international agreements and initiatives such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and REDD+, which rely on forest degradation monitoring.