Forests

About 9,000 sq km of Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation; government unaware

The study suggests that deforestation-related greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil are nearly twice as high as government estimates

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 14 October 2016
The untracked deforestation can have ramifications beyond the loss of critical forests. Credit: eutrophication / Flicker
The untracked deforestation can have ramifications beyond the loss of critical forests. Credit: eutrophication / Flicker The untracked deforestation can have ramifications beyond the loss of critical forests. Credit: eutrophication / Flicker

Significant deforestation is happening in Brazilian Amazon and the government has no inkling about it. A study led by researchers from Brown University has found that about 9,000 square kilometres of Amazon forest was cleared between 2008 and 2012 without detection by the official monitoring system. It means there’s more deforestation happening in Brazil than what the government estimates suggest.

The study compared data from Brazil’s official Monitoring Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by Satellite Project (PRODES) with two independent satellite measures of forest cover. It found that PRODES didn’t measure deforestation of about 9,000 sq km, which is three times the size of Rhode Island.

Problem with government monitoring system

The problem, according to the researchers, is that PRODES monitors only primary Amazon rainforest and excludes dry forests as well as secondary forests—land that was cleared many years ago and has since become reforested. It also excludes discreet forest plots with area smaller than 6.25 hectares (15.4 acres).

Satellite sources used by the researchers looked at the canopy cover without those exclusions. It revealed that deforestation in large plots of primary rainforests has declined but expanded in dry forests and discreet forests which PRODES couldn’t track.

Manifold effects

The untracked deforestation can have ramifications beyond the loss of critical forests. This study suggests that deforestation-related greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil are nearly twice as high as government estimates.

Down To Earth had earlier reported how activities like selective logging, hunting, altering or fragmenting the landscape and habitat degradation are making the Amazon rainforest more flammable with 19,379 cases of fire reported in 2015 alone.

“Brazil recently ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, which mandates substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels. By missing so much deforestation in PRODES measurements, Brazil is overestimating their emissions reductions,” said VanWey, co-author of the study and senior deputy director at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.

Many studies have linked deforestation to drought as cutting of trees affects the ability of forests to absorb carbon from the air and to pull enough water from earth through tree roots to moisture the air.

The results of the study show that Brazil needs to improve its detection and enforcement strategy to understand the “new reality of land management”.

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