• Deforestation in the Amazon sees an 18% decrease, despite earlier scepticism

    deforestation amazon

    Deforestation in the Amazon has decreased by 18% according to Brazilian government. Photo: CGV

    A report released today by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment has documented the state of deforestation in the legal Amazon over the past year. The period analysed comprises August 2013 to July 2014, and while an increase was observed in the states of Maranhão (37%) and Acre (41%), deforestation has decreased overall by 18%. Deforestation in the state of Pará alone decreased by 22%, a significant reduction as the state is notorious for high levels of deforestation in the past.

    This announcement comes at a crucial time, with the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) commencing in Lima, Peru on Monday. An 18% decrease in deforestation puts Brazil well on target to meet its 36%-39% reductions by 2020. However, despite the positive results, the report has been met with some scepticism on the back of another report released last month by the non-governmental organisation Imazon, who documented a 467% increase in the rate of deforestation in October compared to the same month in 2013.

    But while the figures released by Imazon are dramatic, it is important to consider how they were obtained. Firstly, the stark increase detailed by Imazon comprised only a comparison of the month of October this year to the same month last year. Additionally, Imazon obtain their deforestation statistics through utilisation of a Deforestation Alert System (SAD), which observes deforestation at a coarse resolution of 250m, while the Brazilian government observes deforestation mapped by INPE using PRODES, which utilises a much finer resolution of 20-30m. The coarse 250m resolution may not provide as much information, and may be more susceptible to interpretation error, than the 20-30m resolution LandSat satellite images obtained by PRODES.

    The Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira explained that PRODES revealed the deforestation of 4848 km2 for 2014 compared to 5891 km2 in 2013, and it is likely that this information will be a primary feature of the climate talks in Lima next week. Furthermore, the numbers will be consolidated until the first half of 2015 and subject to external audit by the Brazilian government.

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