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Calculating Deforestation Figures for the Amazon

These figures are calculated from estimates provided by the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The figures only refer to the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest.

According to a study released in September 2009 by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), at least 20 percent land deforested in the Brazilian Amazon is regrowing forest.

PeriodEstimated Remaining
Forest Cover
in the Brazilian Amazon
(sq. km)
Annual forest loss
(sq. km)
Percent of 1970
cover remaining
Total forest loss
since 1970
(sq. km)
pre-19704,100,000
19704,001,60097.6%98,400
19773,955,87021,13096.5%144,130
1978-19873,744,57021,13091.3%355,430
19883,723,52021,05090.8%376,480
19893,705,75017,77090.4%394,250
19903,692,02013,73090.0%407,980
19913,680,99011,03089.8%419,010
19923,667,20413,78689.4%432,796
19933,652,30814,89689.1%447,692
19943,637,41214,89688.7%462,588
19953,608,35329,05988.0%491,647
19963,590,19218,16187.6%509,808
19973,576,96513,22787.2%523,035
19983,559,58217,38386.8%540,418
19993,542,32317,25986.4%557,677
20003,524,09718,22686.0%575,903
20013,505,93218,16585.5%594,068
20023,484,28121,65185.0%615,719
20033,458,88525,39684.4%641,115
20043,431,11327,77283.7%668,887
20053,412,09919,01483.2%687,901
20063,397,81414,28582.9%702,186
20073,386,16311,65182.6%713,837
20083,373,25212,91182.3%726,748
20093,365,7887,46482.1%734,212
20103,358,7887,00081.9%741,212
20113,352,3706,41881.8%747,630
20123,347,7994,57181.7%752,201
20133,341,9085,89181.5%758,092



All figures derived from official National Institute of Space Research (INPE) data. Individual state figures.
For the 1978-1988 period the figures represent the average annual rates of deforestation.

Accumulated deforestation across all Amazon countries
Accumulated forest loss in the Amazon. Click image to enlarge.


Brazil could substantially boost its agricultural output while increasing protection of its native ecosystems, finds a new analysis published by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), an international think tank. The study, titled Production and Protection: A First Look at Key Challenges in Brazil, analyzes agricultural productivity, trends in land use, and policies governing rural lands in Brazil. It concludes there is "ample scope for enhanced protection of natural resources and growth of agricultural production in Brazil."














(Left) This figure shows the change (in millimeters per day) in daily average precipitation after total Amazon deforestation compared to before deforestation. The pink to dark-pink range indicates a drop in precipitation of up 1.6 mm less per day once the Amazon is gone. Areas with statistically significant changes are hatched. (Right) The researchers' model indicated that the surface temperature in the Amazon region would increase by up to 2 degrees Celsius (darkest green) over a 14-year period following deforestation. The region of Amazon deforestation is boxed. Caption courtesy of Princeton University.


LEFT: (A) Confirmed and suspected deforestation caused directly by gold mining in the southern Madre de Dios region from 1999 to 2012. (B) Contribution of the three large mines compared with small mines from 1999 to 2012. Courtesy of Asner et al 2013. RIGHT: Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler








The Brazilian Cattle Herd: Amazon and non-Amazon. Courtesy of Walker et al 2013
































Recent news on deforestation in the Amazon



New laws may turn Brazil's forests into mines

(11/07/2014) With the world’s largest system of protected areas and a 70 percent drop in the deforestation rate of the Amazon over the past decade, Brazil has made huge strides in safeguarding what’s left of its wilderness. However, this progress now hangs in the balance, with new laws threatening to turn many of the country’s protected areas into mines and dams.


Daring activists use high-tech to track illegal logging trucks in the Brazilian Amazon

(10/15/2014) Every night empty trucks disappear into the Brazilian Amazon, they return laden with timber. This timber —illegally cut —makes its way to a sawmills that sell it abroad using fraudulent paperwork to export the ill-gotten gains as legit. These findings are the result of a daring and dangerous investigation by Greenpeace-Brazil.


'River wolves' recover in Peruvian park, but still remain threatened inside and out (photos)

(10/14/2014) Lobo de río, or river wolf, is the very evocative Spanish name for one of the Amazon's most spectacular mammals: the giant river otter. This highly intelligent, deeply social, and simply charming freshwater predator almost vanished entirely due to a relentless fur trade in the 20th Century. But decades after the trade in giant river otter pelts was outlawed, the species is making a comeback.


An impossible balancing act? Forests benefit from isolation, but at cost to local communities

(10/07/2014) The indigenous people of the Amazon live in areas that house many of the Amazon’s diverse species. The Rupununi region of Guyana is one such area, with approximately 20,000 Makushi and Wapishana people living in isolation. According to a recent study published in Environmental Modelling & Software, a simulation model revealed a link between growing indigenous populations and gradual local resource depletion.


Turning point for Peru's forests? Norway and Germany put muscle and money behind ambitious agreement

(09/24/2014) From the Andes to the Amazon, Peru houses some of the world's most spectacular forests. Proud and culturally-diverse indigenous tribes inhabit the interiors of the Peruvian Amazon, including some that have chosen little contact with the outside world. And even as scientists have identified tens-of-thousands of species that make their homes from the leaf litter to the canopy.


'The green Amazon is red with indigenous blood': authorities pull bodies from river that may have belonged to slain leaders

(09/17/2014) Peruvian authorities have pulled more human remains from a remote river in the Amazon, which may belong to one of the four murdered Ashaninka natives killed on September 1st. It is believed the four Ashaninka men, including renowned leader Edwin Chota Valera, were assassinated for speaking up against illegal logging on their traditional lands.


Authorities stop 'greatest destroyers of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest'

(08/28/2014) A criminal organization involved in the illicit deforestation of large portions of Brazil's forests has been stopped, with at least six members of the organization arrested as of Aug. 28 and warrants issued for others. The gang has been accused of committing crimes worth over $220 million.


Peru slashes environmental protections to attract more mining and fossil fuel investment

(07/23/2014) In an effort to kickstart investment in mining and fossil fuels, Peru has passed a controversial law that overturns many of its environmental protections and essentially defangs its Ministry of Environment. The new law has environmentalists not only concerned about its impact on the country but also that the measures will undermine progress at the up-coming UN Climate Summit in December.


A garden or a wilderness? One-fifth of the Amazon may have been savannah before the arrival of Europeans

(07/09/2014) The Amazon is the largest tropical forest on the planet, covering about 6.5 million square kilometers, although much has been lost in recent decades.Yet new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that quite recently—just 500 years ago—a significant portion of the southern Amazon was not the tall-canopied forest it is today, but savannah.


Camera trap captures first ever video of rarely-seen bird in the Amazon...and much more

(06/17/2014) A camera trap program in Ecuador's embattled Yasuni National Program has struck gold, taking what researchers believe is the first ever film of a wild nocturnal curassow (Nothocrax urumutum). In addition, the program has captured video of other rarely-seen animals, including the short-eared dog and the giant armadillo.


Oil company breaks agreement, builds big roads in Yasuni rainforest

(06/05/2014) When the Ecuadorian government approved permits for an oil company to drill deep in Yasuni National Park, it was on the condition that the company undertake a roadless design with helicopters doing most of the leg-work. However, a new report based on high-resolution satellite imagery has uncovered that the company, Petroamazonas, has flouted the agreement's conditions, building a massive access road.


After throwing out referendum, Ecuador approves oil drilling in Yasuni's embattled heart

(06/02/2014) By 2016, oil drilling will begin in what scientists believe is the most biodiverse place on the planet: remote Yasuni National Park. Late last month, Ecuador announced it had approved permits for oil drilling in Yasuni's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) block, an untouched swathe of primary rainforest covering around 100,000 hectares or about 10 percent of the park.


Of jaguars and loggers: new film to showcase one of the least-known regions in the deep Amazon

(06/02/2014) In August, three young filmmakers will go on the expedition of a lifetime. They plan to spend six months filming in one of the most remote, most spectacular, and most endangered ecosystems on the planet: the Las Piedras River system. This unprotected swathe of Amazon jungle contains massive anacondas, prowling jaguars, and even uncontacted indigenous people.


53 indigenous activists on trial for police-protester massacre in Peru

(05/15/2014) In the summer of 2009, on a highway in Peru known as Devil's Curve: everything went wrong. For months, indigenous groups had protested new laws by then President Alan Garcia opening up the Amazon to deregulated logging, fossil fuels, and other extractive industries as a part of free trade agreements with the U.S.


New report reveals human rights abuses by corporations, governments in the Amazon

(05/14/2014) Regnskogfondet (the Rainforest Foundation of Norway) recently released a 52-page report that gives an in-depth account of the conflicts activists and indigenous peoples (IPs) are having with corporations and governmental agencies. It relays a situation that does not look good.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Crowdsourced forest monitoring

(04/25/2014) In the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation alerts are being submitted via smartphones. On the ground technicians send alerts to a database stored in 'the cloud.' This information is added to maps, which, along with satellite imagery, are used to inform law enforcement. And the speed of this process is getting real results.


Legal logging concessions drive illegal logging in Peru, threatening forests and indigenous people

(04/17/2014) Nearly 70 percent of officially inspected logging concessions in Peru have had their permits canceled or are under investigation for major breaches of forestry laws, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Worryingly, the research also concludes that forestry permits are being widely used to launder timber illegally logged from outside concession areas.


Featured video: celebrities speak out for Yasuni

(04/02/2014) A group of celebrities, including recent Academy Award winner Jared Leto, Law and Order's Benjamin Bratt, and Kill Bill's Daryl Hannah, have lent their voices to a new Public Service Announcement to raise signatures to protect Ecuador's Yasuni National Park from oil drilling.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Quantifying the cost of forest degradation

(03/27/2014) How much is a forest really worth? And what is the cost of forest degradation? These values are difficult to estimate, but according to Dr. Phillip Fearnside, we need to do a better job. For nearly forty years, Fearnside has lived in Amazonia doing ecological research, looking at the value of forests in terms of environmental or ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water cycling, and biodiversity preservation. Fearnside then works to convert these services into a basis for sustainable development for rural populations.


Mother of God: meet the 26 year old Indiana Jones of the Amazon, Paul Rosolie

(03/17/2014) Not yet 30, Paul Rosolie has already lived a life that most would only dare dream of—or have nightmares over, depending on one's constitution. With the Western Amazon as his panorama, Rosolie has faced off jaguars, wrestled anacondas, explored a floating forest, mentored with indigenous people, been stricken by tropical disease, traveled with poachers, and hand-reared a baby anteater. It's no wonder that at the ripe age of 26, Rosolie was already written a memoir: Mother of God.


more news


Charts and graphs for the Amazon forest

FOREST LOSS

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Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 1988-present
60-70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon results from cattle ranches while the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence agriculture. Despite the widespread press attention, large-scale farming (i.e. soybeans) currently contributes relatively little to total deforestation in the Amazon. Most soybean cultivation takes place outside the rainforest in the neighboring cerrado grassland ecosystem and in areas that have already been cleared. Logging results in forest degradation but rarely direct deforestation. However, studies have showed a close correlation between logging and future clearing for settlement and farming.
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Causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2000-2005
The above pie chart showing deforestation in the Amazon by cause is based on the median figures for estimate ranges. Please note the low estimate for large-scale agriculture. Between 2000-2005 soybean cultivation resulted in a small overall percentage of direct deforestation. Nevertheless the role of soy is quite significant in the Amazon. As explained by Dr. Philip Fearnside, "Soybean farms cause some forest clearing directly. But they have a much greater impact on deforestation by consuming cleared land, savanna, and transitional forests, thereby pushing ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers ever deeper into the forest frontier. Soybean farming also provides a key economic and political impetus for new highways and infrastructure projects, which accelerate deforestation by other actors."
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Deforestation in Amazônia Legal State, Brazil, 1988-2005
Deforestation in Amazônia Legal State, Brazil, 1988-2005 measured stated-by-state by percent share of total forest loss
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Deforestation in Amazônia Legal State, Brazil, 1988-2005
Deforestation in Amazônia Legal State, Brazil, 1988-2005 State-by-state contribution to total forest loss
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Deforestation in Acre State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Amapá State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Amazonas State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Maranhão State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Mato Grosso State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Pará State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Rondônia State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Roraima State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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Deforestation in Tocantins State, Brazil, 1988-2005

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FOREST COVER

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Amazon biomass distribution, by vegetation type
The biomass range (metric tons per hectare) for general vegetation types in the Amazon Basin. The authors report the following distribution of vegetation category for the basin: Old growth terra firme forest (62.3% of the legal Amazon [(8 235 430 sq km]); Floodplain and inundated forest (4.19%); Secondary forest (1.67%); Woodland savanna (24.47%); and Grass/shrub savanna (4.79%). The authors report average biomass ranges as follows: Dense forest 272.5 Mt/ha, Open forest 200.2 Mt/ha, Bamboo forest 212.3 Mt/ha, Liana/dry forest 189.7 Mt/ha, Seasonal/deciduous forest 225.6 Mt/ha, and Varzea flooded forest 248.3 Mt/ha. Image produced by Rhett A. Butler using data from the authors.
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AGRICULTURE
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Soy expansion in the Brazilian Amazon, 1990-2005
Total deforestation and area of soybean cultivation across states in the Brazilian Amazon. Overall soybean cultivation makes up only a small portion of deforestation, though its role is accelerating. Further, soybean expansion and the associated infrastructure development and farmer displacement is driving deforestation by other actors. Note: some soybean farms are established on already degraded rainforest lands and neighboring cerrado ecosystems. Therefore it would be inappropriate to assume the area of soybean planting represents its actual role in deforestation.
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Soy expansion and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 1990-2005
Annual deforestation rates and annual soy expansion for states in the Brazilian Amazon 1990-2005. Note that the 1995-1996 and 1998-1999 years were negative and do not show up on the chart. Graphs based on Brazilian government data.
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Projected soybean exports for the U.S. and Brazil, 2004-2015

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Cattle production in Brazil, 1977-2007

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Production and total supply of cattle in Brazil, 1960-2007

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Soybean oil crush in Brazil, 1981-2006

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Sugar cane production & export for Brazil, 1960-2006

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World soybean production, 1980-2003

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Soy and corn acreage planted and projected in the United States

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Soy and corn acreage planted and projected in the United States

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Forecast world soy trade market share for the U.S. and Brazil, 2004-2016

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World soybean exports, 1990-2015

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Deforestation images

Pictures of deforestation


Expansion of cattle pasture in the Brazilian Amazon, 1998-2003. Courtesy of IPAM

Deforestation hotspots in the Brazilian Amazon, 2001-2004. Courtesy of IPAM


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KEY ARTICLES
  • Brazil could halt Amazon deforestation within a decade
  • Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon
  • Are we on the brink of saving rainforests?
  • Amazon deforestation doesn't make communities richer, better educated, or healthier
  • Brazil's plan to save the Amazon rainforest
  • Beef consumption fuels rainforest destruction
  • How to save the Amazon rainforest
  • Oil development could destroy the most biodiverse part of the Amazon
  • Future threats to the Amazon rainforest
  • Half the Amazon rainforest will be lost within 20 years
  • Can cattle ranchers and soy farmers save the Amazon rainforest?
  • Globalization could save the Amazon rainforest
  • Amazon natives use Google Earth, GPS to protect forest home



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