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-Jan-28
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.
New parasitoid wasp species discovered in Amazon manipulate host behavior in ‘complex way’
- Researchers have discovered 15 new wasp species in lowland Amazon rainforests and Andean cloud forests that parasitize spiders in a “complex way.”- Female Acrotaphus wasps are known to attack spiders in their webs, temporarily paralyzing the arachnids with a venomous sting so they can lay a single egg on a spider. The wasp larva then hatches from the egg and gradually eats the spider before it pupates.- According to study co-author Ilari E. Sääksjärvi, a professor of biodiversity research at the University of Turku, the 15 newly discovered species of Acrotaphus wasps control host spiders’ behavior in very particular ways in order to ensure the survival of their offspring.
Past and future tropical dams devastating to fish the world over: Study
- Most research on the ecological impacts of tropical dams does so one dam project at a time. But a new landmark study attempts to connect the dots globally by analyzing tropical dam impacts on freshwater river fish around the world.- The research assembled data on the geographic range of 10,000 fish species, and checked those tropical species against the location of 40,000 existing dams and 3,700 dams that are either being built or planned for the near future.- Scientists found that biodiversity hotspots including the Amazon, Congo, Salween and Mekong watersheds are likely to be hard hit, with river fragmentation potentially averaging between 25% and 40% due to hydropower expansion underway in the tropics.- Dams harm fish ecology via river fragmentation, species migration prevention, reservoir and downstream deoxygenation, seasonal flow disruption, and blockage of nurturing sediments. Drastic sudden fish losses due to dams can also destroy the commercial and subsistence livelihoods of indigenous and traditional peoples.
Brazilian meat giant JBS expands its reach in China
- Brazilian meatpacker JBS has agreed to supply WH Group, a Hong Kong-based meat processor with access to retail outlets across China, with beef, pork and poultry products worth around $687 million a year beginning in 2020.- Investigations have shown that JBS sources some of its beef from producers who have been fined for illegal deforestation in the Amazon.- The push for cattle pasture drives most of the deforestation in the Amazon, while soybean plantations to supply pig and chicken feed have replaced large tracts of the wooded savannas of the Cerrado.
Pope makes impassioned plea to save the Amazon — will the world listen?
- In a 94-page document entitled “Querida Amazonia” (Dear Amazon), Pope Francis has made an impassioned plea for world leaders, transnational companies, and people everywhere to step up and protect the Amazon rainforest along with the indigenous people who live there and are its best stewards.- The Amazon is seeing rapid deforestation in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, while violence against indigenous people is rising. Scientists say climate change and deforestation are forcing a forest-to-savanna tipping point, which could lead to a massive tree die-off, the release of huge amounts of CO2, and global climate catastrophe.- “We are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God,” Pope Francis writes in Dear Amazon. “For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth.”- Faith leaders applauded the pope: “Care for creation and… social justice for indigenous peoples and forest communities are part of one moral fabric,” said Joe Corcoran of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. But most media ignored the pope’s message, focusing instead on his verdict disallowing Amazon priests from marrying.
Early deforestation numbers for 2019 reveal trends in the Amazon
- The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, or MAAP, an initiative of the nonprofit organization Amazon Conservation, has published its analysis of preliminary deforestation data for the Amazon in 2019.- The figures project that deforestation in 2019 tapered, if slightly, or held relatively steady in four of the five Amazon countries included in the study.- Bolivia’s loss of forest in 2019 rose in comparison with 2018, likely as a result of widespread fires that burned standing forest.- The researchers used early-warning alerts of tree cover loss in 2019 to estimate total deforestation in the five countries and then compared the figures with historical rates going back to 2001.
Private firms will pay soy farmers not to deforest Brazil’s Cerrado
- The meteoric growth of the soy industry, which cultivates the profitable bean to feed livestock and cultivated fish in both Brazil and internationally (especially in the UK and EU) is rapidly destroying critical biomes like the Cerrado, Brazil’s tropical savanna.- But in December. Tesco, Nutreco, and Grieg Seafood launched a groundbreaking initiative aimed at reducing deforestation in the Cerrado by paying farmers to conserve native vegetation on their lands.- The “Funding for Soy Farmers in the Cerrado Initiative” has so far managed to secure around US$13 million in pledges to incentivize farmers to avoid new deforestation, and instead grow on land that has already been transformed for agriculture. A mechanism for distributing the funds has yet to be established.- The initiative’s goals align with those of the Cerrado Manifesto, a voluntary pact already signed by 60+ organizations to protect the Cerrado. Backers only want soy grown on the 38 million hectares already converted from savanna to agriculture. A sticking point: transnational commodities companies, like Cargill, haven’t signed on.
Deforestation in Brazil continues torrid pace into 2020
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to rise, according to data from Brazil’s national space research institute INPE.- NPE’s deforestation alert system DETER shows that deforestation during January 2020 amounted to 284 square kilometers (110 square miles), an area 83 times the size of New York’s Central Park. The loss is more than twice that registered in January 2019.- January’s numbers put deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over 9,000 sq km for the past 12 months, an 85% increase over a year ago.- The various data points suggest that forest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon is currently pacing about double last year’s rate.
Bolsonaro sends Congress bill to open indigenous lands to mining, fossil fuels
- President Jair Bolsonaro has long pledged to open Brazil’s indigenous reserves in the Amazon and elsewhere to commercial mining, oil and gas exploration, cattle ranching and agribusiness, new hydroelectric dam projects, and tourism. This week he sent a bill to Congress that would do just that.- And while the legislation would allow consultation with impacted indigenous populations, they would lack the power of veto, except in cases of “garimpo” or wildcat mining. Though the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby is strong in Congress, it remains to be seen whether the bill will be approved.- The legislation would also allow the use of GM, genetically modified, seeds in agricultural projects, a practice previously banned because of the danger of contaminating native seeds. Royalties would be paid to indigenous communities for the economic activities allowed in their reserves and communities.- Bolsonaro called his project a “dream” but it has already met with withering criticism from indigenous organizations who see it as a nightmare. Apib, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples, called it a ‘death project’ which would, under the mask of false good intentions, effectively authorize the invasion of their lands
Carbon uptake slower than expected in Amazon secondary forest: Study
- A secondary forest in a portion of the Brazilian Amazon takes up carbon at only about twice the rate of primary forest, as compared to carbon accumulation at up to 11 times in other parts of the world; that could be bad news if similar findings are confirmed elsewhere in the Amazon and the tropics, according to scientists.- The Bragantina region of Pará state where the study occurred has been used agriculturally for hundreds of years, until today, almost no primary forest remains. It is unlikely these degraded forests will return to their original levels of carbon storage and biodiversity on “politically meaningful timescales,” the researchers said.- The results indicate that future researchers should be more cautious in estimating the absorption capacity of atmospheric carbon by regenerating tropical forests to mitigate the impacts of climate change, as that capacity is variable depending on multiple factors and may be overestimated.- The findings could also put in doubt Brazil’s plan to meet its Paris Climate Agreement carbon reduction pledges by replanting forest. The nation promises to restore 12 million hectares of forest by 2030. But the actual carbon storage value of these new secondary forests, including tree plantations, could be far lower than expected.
Upset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)
- Satellites reveal the true story of the 2019 Brazilian Amazon fires, and how to avoid a repeat in 2020.- The common media narrative, and resulting public perception, is that large uncontrolled fires were raging through the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, causing vast destruction and deforestation. Subsequent analysis of extensive satellite imagery archives, however, has quietly revealed the opposite scenario: many of the fires were actually burning the remains of areas that were recently deforested.- That is, the recent deforestation surge fueled the 2019 Brazilian Amazon fires. The fires were in fact a lagging indicator of recent deforestation. Such information provides a much more focused target for the world’s outcry and related policy actions than just focusing on the fires alone.- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.