Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon halved by 2023

Burnt trees are seen after farmers set illegal fires in Manaquiri, Amazonas state in September 2023 – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by half last year, according to figures released on Friday, as the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva strengthened environmental police to crack down on the mounting destruction.

Much less clear news, however, came from the key Cerrado savanna beneath the rainforest, where deforestation hit a new annual record last year and is set to rise 43 percent by 2022, according to the National Space Agency’s DETER monitoring program.

Satellite monitoring revealed 5,152 square kilometers (nearly 2,000 square miles) of forest cover destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon, a 50 percent decrease from 2022.

That still represented a loss 29 times greater than Washington DC’s in Brazil’s share of the world’s largest rainforest, whose carbon-sucking trees play a vital role in mitigating climate change.

Meanwhile, the Cerrado, a biodiversity hotspot whose ecosystems are intricately linked to the Amazon, lost more than 7,800 square kilometers of native vegetation last year, the most since monitoring began in 2018.

“We saw several important environmental victories in 2023. The significant reduction in deforestation in the Amazon was the highlight,” said Mariana Napolitano of environmental group WWF-Brasil.

“But unfortunately we don’t see the same trend in the Cerrado… This is damaging the biome and the extremely important ecosystem services it provides.” And we saw the impact at the end of the year with extremely high temperatures.”

Environmental groups have accused Lula’s government of turning a blind eye to the destruction of the lesser-known Cerrado to appease the powerful agribusiness lobby.

Data for both the Amazon and the Cerrado were updated through December 29.

Taken together, the total area demolished in both regions was 12,980 square kilometers in 2023, down 18 percent from 2022.

After defeating far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 election, veteran leftist Lula returned to office on January 1, 2023, declaring that “Brazil is back” as a partner in the fight against climate change.

Agribusiness ally Bolsonaro (2019-2022) has drawn international criticism for presiding over a 75 percent increase in average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over the previous decade.

Experts say the destruction in both the Amazon and the Cerrado is mainly caused by agriculture and cattle ranching in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of soybeans and beef.

Leave a Comment