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-Jul-10
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.
Deforestation in the Amazon is drying up the rest of Brazil: Report
- The center-west, south and part of the southeast regions of Brazil have seen rainfall well below average in recent years.- Agriculture is the first sector to feel the effects of the drought, with drastic losses in production. Water supply and power generation have also been impacted.- Agribusiness suffers the consequences of drought but also causes it: Deforestation of the Amazon to clear land for livestock, farming and logging affects the rainfall regime in Brazil and other Latin American countries.- “South America is drying up as a result of the combined effects of deforestation and climate change”, says scientist Antonio Donato Nobre.
Brazil dismantles environmental laws via huge surge in executive acts: Study
- Between March and May 2020, the government of Jair Bolsonaro published 195 infralegal acts — ordinances, normative instructions, decrees and other measures — which critics say are an indirect means of dismantling Brazil’s environmental laws and bypassing Congress. During the same period in 2019, just 16 such acts were published.- In April, 2020 Environment Minister Ricardo Salles suggested that the administration “run the cattle” which experts say, within the context Salles used the phrase, is a euphemism for utilizing the COVID-19 crisis as a means of distracting Brazilians from the administration’s active undermining of the environmental rule of law.- A partial study of the 195 acts has found that they, among other things, allow rural landowners who illegally deforested and occupied conserved areas in the Atlantic Forest up to July 2008 to receive full amnesty for their crimes. Another change pays indemnities to those who expropriated properties within federal conservation units.- Shifts in administration management responsibilities have also resulted in what experts say is a weakening of regulations granting and managing national forests, and the relaxation of supervision over fisheries that could allow increased illegal trafficking in tropical fish. A study of the repercussions of all 195 acts is continuing.
Amazon gold mining wipes out rainforest regeneration for years: Study
- New research looking at Amazon artisanal gold mining in Guyana has found that the destroyed Amazon forest at mining sites shows no sign of recovery three to four years after a mine pit and tailings pond are abandoned, likely largely due to soil nutrient depletion.- In addition, mercury contamination at the sites drops after a mine is abandoned; mercury is used to process gold. Mercury being a chemical element, it does not break down but can bioaccumulate, so its onsite disappearance means the toxin is possibly leaching into local waters, entering fish, and poisoning riverine people who eat them.- The solution would be the proper restoration of mine sites, especially the proper filling in of mine holes and tailing ponds imitating replacement by natural topsoil. Better regulations, much bigger fines and other penalties, along with enforcement of mining laws would also help seriously curb the problem, say researchers.- But so long as the price of gold continues topping $1,700 an ounce (as it did during the 2008 U.S. housing crisis), or $2,000 an ounce (its current price during the still escalating COVID-19 pandemic), it seems likely that there is little that can curb the enthusiasm of poor and wealthy prospectors alike for digging up the Amazon.
Deaths of Yanomami babies from COVID-19 bring anguish to mothers
- Three indigenous babies from the Yanomami Indigenous group who died with suspected COVID-19 infection were buried in a cemetery in the city of Boa Vista, in Brazil’s Roraima state, far from their villages.- Their mothers don’t speak Portuguese and likely had no understanding of what would happen to their children’s bodies.- It is a Yanomami tradition to cremate their dead, and the ritual can take more than a year to complete.- Indigenous people are now reluctant to seek medical treatment for fear that their bodies will not be returned to the community if they die. A local NGO says the handling of the case shows continued disrespect for Indigenous culture.
Goldminers overrun Amazon indigenous lands as COVID-19 surges
- Reports filed by NGOs including the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) and Greenpeace Brazil say that a major invasion of indigenous reserves and conservation units is underway, prompted by miners well backed with expensive equipment supplied by wealthy elites.- Miners are emboldened, say the NGOs, by the inflammatory anti-indigenous and anti-environmental rhetoric of the Jair Bolsonaro administration which has sent a clear signal so far, that it has no major plans of stopping the invasions or penalizing the perpetrators.- Through June of this year, deforestation by mining within conserved areas represented 67.9% of total tree loss in Legal Amazonia. From January to June, illegal mining destroyed 2,230 hectares (5,510 acres) of forest inside conservation units (UCs) and 1,016 hectares (2,510 acres) inside indigenous territories (TIs).- The miners’ onslaught also poses a serious COVID-19 threat. The virus has so far infected at least 14,647 indigenous people and caused 269 deaths on indigenous lands. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is pressing for passage of legislation authorizing mining on indigenous lands; presently the bill is stalled in the house of deputies.
Indigenous Ashaninka launch fundraiser to help Amazon neighbors amid pandemic
- In early July, the Ashaninka indigenous people launched a fundraising campaign to encourage food production in communities living near the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Territory, in the Brazilian state of Acre.- The “Ashaninka for the Peoples of the Forest” campaign plans to raise 1 million reais (about $200,000) to distribute food, farming tools and fishing gear to 1,800 local families, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.- There have been no reports of any Ashaninka being infected with COVID-19 to date; isolated by barriers they set up in the river leading to their village, they’re surviving on their traditional farming techniques.- Nearby communities, however, depend on food aid and lack medical care in highly complex cases, prompting the Ashaninka to launch the fundraising campaign out of a sense of duty.
Brazilian Amazon drained of millions of wild animals by criminal networks: Report
- A new 140-page report is shining a bright light on illegal wildlife trafficking in the Brazilian Amazon. The study finds that millions of birds, tropical fish, turtles, and mammals are being plucked from the wild and traded domestically or exported to the U.S, EU, China, the Middle East and elsewhere. Many are endangered.- This illicit international trade is facilitated by weak laws, weak penalties, inadequate government record keeping, poor law enforcement — as well as widespread corruption, bribery, fraud, forgery, money laundering and smuggling.- While some animals are seized, and some low-level smugglers are caught, the organizers of this global criminal enterprise are rarely brought to justice.- The report notes that this trafficking crisis needs urgent action, as the trade not only harms wildlife, but also decimates ecosystems and puts public health at risk. The researchers point out that COVID-19 likely was transmitted to humans by trafficked animals and that addressing the Brazilian Amazon wildlife trade could prevent the next pandemic.
For the Amazon’s rarest wild dog, deforestation is a very real threat
- The short-eared dog, an elusive species endemic to the Amazon, could lose 30% of its habitat in just the next seven years.- Researchers say the species should be listed as vulnerable, instead of near threatened, on the IUCN Red List to highlight the threats it faces from habitat loss and climate change.- New research shows the short-eared dog may be a vital disperser of Brazil nut trees, helping prop up a $44 million industry.
Scientists launch ambitious conservation project to save the Amazon
- The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA), an ambitious cooperative project to bring together the existing scientific research on the Amazon biome, has been launched with the support of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.- Modeled on the authoritative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, the first Amazon report is planned for release in April 2021; that report will include an extensive section on Amazon conservation solutions and policy suggestions backed up by research findings.- The Science Panel for the Amazon consists of 150 experts — including climate, ecological, and social scientists; economists; indigenous leaders and political strategists — primarily from the Amazon countries- According to Carlos Nobre, one of the leading scientists on the project, the SPA’s reports will aim not only to curb deforestation, but to propose an ongoing economically feasible program to conserve the forest while advancing human development goals for the region, working in tandem with, and in support of, ecological systems.
Niobium mining in Brazilian Amazon would cause significant forest loss: Study
- A recent study found that large-scale niobium mining proposals, if carried out in the remote northwest portion of the Brazilian Amazon, would likely cause significant forest loss and threaten biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.- The study comes as President Jair Bolsonaro pushes for an expansion of industrial mining on indigenous lands and his administration turns a blind eye to expanding illegal mining that is threatening indigenous communities in the northern Amazon.- There are two known niobium deposits in the region, at Seis Lagos and at Santa Isabel do Rio Negro, located in the Rio Negro River basin. The Brazilian portion of the Rio Negro River basin is home to 23 Indigenous groups, including the Yanomami people, and holds vast tracts of undisturbed rainforest, rich in biodiversity.- The recent niobium study offers an example of how science can be proactive in analyzing the environmental impact of infrastructure development well before it happens, hopefully helping guide policy decisions to prevent deforestation, pollution, the spread of disease and other problems.