November 13, 2009

Brazil Reports Smallest Loss Of Amazon Rainforest In Decades

The Brazilian government said it experienced the smallest loss of its sprawling Amazon rainforest over the past year in more than two decades, attributing the change to its tougher environmental policies, AFP reported.

However, the region still lost 2,700 square miles of rainforest between July 2008 and July 2009.

Officials said that was 45 percent less than what was lost during the previous 12 month period to inroads by ranchers, loggers and other human development in the planet's largest expanse of tropical forest "“- which is known as the world's "lungs" for its capacity to absorb carbon emissions.

Gilberto Camara, the director of Brazil's National Institute of Spatial Research (INPE), told President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his environment minister on Thursday that it was by far the best result they've seen since INPE began its study in 1988.

He said deforestation in the Amazon basin had fallen significantly and steadily since 2004, when some 10,400 square miles of forest disappeared.

The steady drop in deforestation has been partly credited to the "Arco Verde-Terra Legal" program that brings together 43 Amazon localities to practice sustainable farming, and regulates land transfers in the Amazon basin.

Deforestation control has become the centerpiece of the Lula administration's fight against global warming, where they aim to reduce clearing in the Amazon by as much as 80 percent by 2020.

Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Brazil is going to give the world a gift.

"We are going to do a lot, and we are also going to demand a lot from the industrialized world," he said.

He said the slowing pace of rainforest loss could be attributed to the government's efforts to shut down illegal logging operations and require that settlers have title to their land.

But while the past year marked a significant improvement, a lot of the Amazon forest is still falling, according to Paulo Adario, director of the Greenpeace environmental group's Amazon campaign.

It was found in a U.S. study published last month in the journal Science that because of selective logging under the forest canopy, the scope of the forest's degradation is twice as great as previously estimated.

For the study, researchers at the Carnegie Institution compared high-resolution satellite data to on the ground field reports.


Image Caption: One consequence of forest clearing in the Amazon: thick smoke that hangs over the forest. Credit: NASA/Jesse Allen/Robert Simmon


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