The Brazilian government’s National Institute for Space Research, or INPE, which is responsible for satellite surveillance, reported on Sept. 24 that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon topped 52,200 hectares (129,000 acres) in August. That figure is more than double what the agency registered the previous month, 21,300 hectares (52,600 acres). From January to August this year, deforestation totaled 156,300 hectares (386,000 acres)
The majority of rainforest destruction occurred in the states of Mato Grosso, in the eastern central region, and Pará, in the northeast, according to INPE. Livestock and farming activities in the municipality of Sinop in Mato Grosso accounted for 10,800 hectares (26,700 acres) of felled woodlands; it was followed by the region of Altamira, in Pará, where the controversial Belo Monte dam is located, and where nearly 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of forest were demolished.
From 2000 to 2010, Brazil lost roughly 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of forest. Then between August 2011 and July 2012, another 241,000 hectares (596,000 acres) were felled, slightly less than the figure registered from August 2010 to July 2011, which was 257,700 hectares (637,000 acres).
Since 2008, the Brazilian government has been committed to an 80 percent reduction of rainforest destruction by 2020, when compared with the average rate from 1996-2005. Among the measures taken to that effect are real-time satellite monitoring, increased security forces, regularization of land deeds, and sustainable development initiatives.
Despite those efforts, the Brazilian Development Bank budgets US$10 billion annually for infrastructure projects, including dams and highways, which threaten the Amazonian rainforest. On top of that there is pressure from farmers to make environmental protection more accommodating, as seen with the Forest Code, which was harshly criticized by environmental organizations and was partially vetoed in May by President Dilma Rousseff.
Earlier this year, Nature magazine warned that the combination of deforestation, farming, and climate change is weakening the Amazonian ecosystem, causing a loss of retention capacity and lower generation of rainfall.
A study published in January by the University of Leeds and the Natural Environment Research Council noted that when it causes a significant drop in precipitation, deforestation also affects people thousands of kilometers away. Amazonian rainforests generate part of the rainfall in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil.
Researchers analyzed the trajectories of air masses originating in the forests and concluded that with more vegetation coverage come more humidity, and consequently more rain.
The report warned that while the Amazon is resilient, fires, deforestation and climate change can compromise its ability to respond to these destructive phenomena. In summary, the Amazon remains fragile despite efforts to reduce deforestation.