Brazil cuts Amazon deforestation by half in 2023

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon decreased by half last year, according to recent figures released by the Defence Technology Experimental Research (DETER), as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government strengthened environmental enforcement to kerb the escalating devastation, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

Satellite monitoring recorded the destruction of 5,152 square kilometres (almost 2,000 square miles) of forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon last year, representing a 50 per cent decrease from 2022.

Despite the reduction, the deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the world’s largest rainforest still equates to an area 29 times larger than Washington, DC. The trees in this rainforest, which absorb carbon, are crucial to mitigating the climate crisis.

The situation was not as positive in the vital Cerrado savanna located beneath the rainforest, as clear-cutting there reached a new yearly high last year, increasing by 43 percent from 2022, according to the national space research agency’s DETER surveillance programme.

The Cerrado saw the loss of more than 7,800 square kilometres of native vegetation last year, which was the greatest loss since monitoring started in 2018.

“We saw some important victories for the environment in 2023. The significant reduction in deforestation in the Amazon was a highlight,” said Mariana Napolitano of the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Brazil.

“But unfortunately, we aren’t seeing the same trend in the Cerrado. That is harming 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.”

The data for both Amazon and Cerrado was current up to December 29. The combined area cleared in these two regions totalled 12,980 square kilometres in 2023, marking an 18 percent decrease from 2022.

According to experts, farming and cattle ranching, primarily in Brazil, the world’s leading exporter of soybeans and beef, are the main causes of the devastation in both the Amazon and Cerrado.

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