Brazil and Peru have experienced a recent uptick in deforestation in the Amazon in recent months, according to two new reports.
The new data collected by satellites troubles environmentalists who fear a return to the heavy deforestation that occurred in previous decades.
The Amazon is the planet’s largest rainforest as well as one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. One in ten of all species live in the Amazon.
The rainforest also serves as one the world’s largest carbon sinks, critical to the overall management of the Earth’s climate, as the forest stores carbon in both soil and above ground biomass.
Areas of the rainforest in Brazil have been deforested mainly for human settlements and land development such as crop cultivation.
As the soils in the Amazon are only good for a short period of time, farmers constantly move and clear new areas of the forest. This clearing is often done through slash and burn techniques that create more carbon emissions.
Deforestation in the Amazon threatens both the forest’s biodiversity and its ability to act as a climate sink.
New data from Imazon, a Brazilian non-profit shows that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased on last year.
Imazon’s analysis of satellite data found that March 2015 had a loss of 58 square kilometers (14,300 acres) in the forest, 190% percent higher than deforestation loss from March 2014. March 2015 was the 11th consecutive month that deforestation increased.
Much of the deforestation occurring in the Amazon is illegal.
Timber laundering, in which trees are illegally harvested and then given clean documentation to facilitate their sale, is widespread throughout the Amazon. Imazon estimates that between August 2011 and July 2012, 78% of logging in the Brazilian Amazon was illegal.
Monthly data collected from Imazon will be used to support law enforcement, enabling the government of Brazil to go after illegal ranchers and loggers who may be responsible for the increase of deforestation.
An unusual aspect of the recent uptick is its timing. This should be the slower season for deforestation in Brazil.
Heavy rainfall makes the months of November through April typically a lower period for forest loss. A larger amount of deforestation usually occurs from July through September, during the forest’s dry season.
Environmentalists are troubled by this recent increase as they fear that it may hurt recent progress in curbing deforestation in the Amazon, bringing about a return to the high forest loss Brazil experienced between 1980-2010.
Peru’s deforestation has occurred in two remote parks in it’s own section of the Amazon rainforest: Alto Nanay Pintuyacu Chambira conservation area and the Alto Purus National Park.
NASA’s satellites detected a significant increase in deforestation in the two areas during the first three months of 2015.
The forest loss is considered unusual as the two protected areas lost a negligible amount of tree cover between 2001-2013.
The cause of the deforestation in these areas of the Peruvian rainforest is presently unclear.