Monitoring deforestation in the Amazon

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

354

227

Month DETER DETER TTM SAD SAD TTM
Apr 2008 1,124 156
May 2008 1,096 9,190 294 5,603
Jun 2008 871 9,064 612 5,716
Jul 2008 324 8,536 276 5,031
Aug 2008 757 7,835 102 4,470
Sep 2008 587 8,400 321 3,679
Oct 2008 541 8,457 102 3,257
Nov 2008 355 8,554 61 2,251
Dec 2008 177 8,013 50 2,233
Jan 2009 222 7,342 51 2,202
Feb 2009 143 6,925 62 2,201
Mar 2009 18 6,343 57 2,144
Apr 2009 37 6,214 121 2,109
May 2009 124 5,127 157 1,972
Jun 2009 578 4,155 150 1,510
Jul 2009 836 3,862 532 1,766
Aug 2009 498 4,375 273 1,937
Sep 2009 400 4,116 216 1,832
Oct 2009 176 3,929 194 1,924
Nov 2009 72 3,564 74 1,937
Dec 2009 3,281 16 1,903
Jan 2010 23 3,104 63 1,915
Feb 2010 185 2,905 88 1,941
Mar 2010 52 2,947 76 1,960
Apr 2010 52 2,981 65 1,904
May 2010 110 2,996 96 1,843
Jun 2010 244 2,982 172 1,865
Jul 2010 485 2,647 155 1,488
Aug 2010 265 2,296 210 1,425
Sep 2010 448 2,063 170 1,379
Oct 2010 389 2,111 153 1,338
Nov 2010 121 2,324 65 1,329
Dec 2010 21 2,372 175 1,488
Jan 2011 36 2,394 83 1,508
Feb 2011 1 2,407 63 1,483
Mar 2011 116 2,223 46 1,453
Apr 2011 477 2,287 298 1,686
May 2011 268 2,712 165 1,755
Jun 2011 313 2,871 99 1,682
Jul 2011 225 2,940 93 1,620
Aug 2011 163 2,680 240 1,650
Sep 2011 254 2,578 170 1,650
Oct 2011 386 2,384 102 1,599
Nov 2011 133 2,381 16 1,550
Dec 2011 75 2,393 40 1,415
Jan 2012 22 2,446 33 1,365
Feb 2012 307 2,432 107 1,409
Mar 2012 60 2,737 53 1,416
Apr 2012 233 2,681 71 1,189
May 2012 99 2,437 43 1,067
Jun 2012 108 2,268 35 1,003
Jul 2012 214 2,062 140 1,050
Aug 2012 522 2,051 232 1,042
Sep 2012 283 2,410 431 1,303
Oct 2012 277 2,439 487 1,688
Nov 2012 205 2,331 55 1,727
Dec 2012 131 2,403 82 1,769
Jan 2013 9 2,459 35 1,771
Feb 2013 270 2,447 45 1,709
Mar 2013 28 2,410 80 1,736
Apr 2013 147 2,378 140 1,805
May 2013 465 2,293 84 1,846
Jun 2013 210 2,659 184 1,995
Jul 2013 217 2,762 152 2,007
Aug 2013 289 2,766 185 1,960
Sep 2013 443 2,532 103 1,632
Oct 2013 155 2,692 43 1,188
Nov 2013 108 2,569 37 1,170
Dec 2013 93 2,472 56 1,144
Jan 2014 75 2,434 107 1,216
Feb 2014 119 2,500 11 1,182
Mar 2014 53 2,349 20 1,122
Apr 2014 166 2,374 100 1,082
May 2014 271 2,394 185 1,183
Jun 2014 535 2,200 843 1,842
Jul 2014 729 2,525 355 2,045
Aug 2014 890 3,036 437 2,297
Sep 2014 736 3,638 402 2,596
Oct 2014 298 3,931 244 2,797
Nov 2014 77 4,074 195 2,955
Dec 2014 85 4,043 95 2,994
Jan 2015 129 4,035 289 3,176
Feb 2015 61 4,089 42 3,207
Mar 2015 155 4,031 58 3,245
Apr 2015 334 4,133 137 3,282
May 2015 588 4,301 389 3,486
Jun 2015 855 4,618 494 3,137
Jul 2015 914 4,937 542 3,324
Aug 2015 654 5,122 415 3,302
Sep 2015 504 4,885 229 3,129
Oct 2015 377 4,653 230 3,115
Nov 2015 240 4,732 99 3,019
Dec 2015 89 4,896 175 3,099
Jan 2016 63 4,899 52 2,862
Feb 2016 534 4,832 0 2,820
Mar 2016 123 5,305 213 2,975
Apr 2016 436 5,274 183 3,021
May 2016 784 5,375 474 3,106
Jun 2016 1,431 5,571 972 3,584
Jul 2016 738 6,147 539 3,581
Aug 2016 1,023 5,972 582 3,748
Sep 2016 688 6,160 387 3,906
Oct 2016 741 6,350 202 3,878
Nov 2016 366 6,403 37 3,816
Dec 2016 17 6,147 0 3,641
Jan 2017 58 5,971 42 3,631
Feb 2017 101 5,956 0 3,631
Mar 2017 74 5,721 97 3,515
Apr 2017 125 5,420 96 3,428
May 2017 348 5,238 365 3,319
Jun 2017 589 4,876 537 2,884
Jul 2017 455 4,585 544 2,889
Aug 2017 289 3,852 184 2,491
Sep 2017 393 3,556 241 2,345
Oct 2017 456 3,272 261 2,404
Nov 2017 359 3,265 56 2,423
Dec 2017 289 3,538 184 2,607
Jan 2018 179 3,658 70 2,635
Feb 2018 151 3,708 214 2,849
Mar 2018 358 3,993 287 3,039
Apr 2018 508 4,376 217 3,160
May 2018 538 4,565 634 3,429
Jun 2018 505 4,481 1,169 4,061
Jul 2018 610 4,635 778 4,295
Aug 2018 520 4,865 545 4,656
Sep 2018 723 5,195 444 4,859
Oct 2018 491 5,230 187 4,785
Nov 2018 265 5,136 287 5,016
Dec 2018 66 4,914 246 5,078
Jan 2019 140 4,875 108 5,116
Feb 2019 131 4,855 93 4,995
Mar 2019 242 4,739 67 4,775
Apr 2019 238 4,468 195 4,753
May 2019 702 4,633 797 4,916
Jun 2019 919 5,048 801 4,548
Jul 2019 2,092 6,530 1,287 5,057
Aug 2019 1,695 7,706 886 5,398
Sep 2019 1,443 8,427 802 5,756
Oct 2019 555 8,491 583 6,152
Nov 2019 523 8,749 6,219
Dec 2019 187 8,870 6,200


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.