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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
20133,341,9565,84381.5%758,044



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.


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



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.


Controversial Amazon dams may have exacerbated biblical flooding

(03/16/2014) Environmentalists and scientists raised howls of protest when the Santo Antônio and Jirau Dams were proposed for the Western Amazon in Brazil, claiming among other issues that the dams would raise water levels on the Madeira River, potentially leading to catastrophic flooding. It turns out they may have been right: last week a federal Brazilian court ordered a new environmental impact study on the dams given suspicion that they have worsened recent flooding in Brazil and across the border in Bolivia.


The making of Amazon Gold: once more unto the breach

(02/19/2014) When Sarah duPont first visited the Peruvian Amazon rainforest in the summer of 1999, it was a different place than it is today. Oceans of green, tranquil forest, met the eye at every turn. At dawn, her brain struggled to comprehend the onslaught of morning calls and duets of the nearly 600 species of birds resounding under the canopy. Today, the director of the new award-winning film, Amazon Gold, reports that "roads have been built and people have arrived. It has become a new wild west, a place without law. People driven by poverty and the desire for a better life have come, exploiting the sacred ground."


High-living frogs hurt by remote oil roads in the Amazon

(01/14/2014) Often touted as low-impact, remote oil roads in the Amazon are, in fact, having a large impact on frogs living in flowers in the upper canopy, according to a new paper published in PLOS ONE. In Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, massive bromeliads grow on tall tropical trees high in the canopy and may contain up to four liters of standing water. Lounging inside this micro-pools, researchers find a wide diversity of life, including various species of frogs. However, despite these frogs living as high as 50 meters above the forest floor, a new study finds that proximity to oil roads actually decreases the populations of high-living frogs.


Brazil begins evicting illegal settlers from hugely-imperiled indigenous reserve

(01/06/2014) Months after closing sawmills on the fringes of an indigenous reserve for the hugely-imperiled Awá people, the Brazil government has now moved into the reserve itself to evict illegal settlers in the eastern Amazon. According to the NGO Survival International, Brazil has sent in the military and other government agents to deal with massive illegal settlements on Awá land for logging or cattle.


Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2013

(12/19/2013) China begins to tackle pollution, carbon emissions: As China's environmental crisis worsens, the government has begun to unveil a series of new initiatives to curb record pollution and cut greenhouse emissions. The world's largest consumer of coal, China's growth in emissions is finally slowing and some experts believe the nation's emissions could peak within the decade. If China's emissions begin to fall, so too could the world's.


Scientists make one of the biggest animal discoveries of the century - a new tapir

(12/16/2013) In what will likely be considered one of the biggest (literally) zoological discoveries of the Twenty-First Century, scientists today announced they have discovered a new species of tapir in Brazil and Colombia. The new mammal, hidden from science but known to local indigenous tribes, is actually one of the biggest animals on the continent, although it's still the smallest living tapir. Described in the Journal of Mammology, the scientists have named the new tapir Tapirus kabomani after the name for 'tapir' in the local Paumari language: Arabo kabomani.


Ecuador's government shuts down indigenous rights organization over oil battle

(12/10/2013) Last Wednesday, the government of Ecuador shutdown the indigenous rights NGO, Fundación Pachamama, in Quito over the group's opposition to oil drilling in indigenous areas. More than a dozen government officials showed up at Pachamama's office with a resolution by the Ministry of Environment that officially dissolved the organization, the first such moved by the government which in June passed an Executive Decree that tightened governmental oversight of the country's NGOs.


Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013

(12/10/2013) 1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.


Could camera trap videos galvanize the world to protect Yasuni from oil drilling?

(11/07/2013) Even ten years ago it would have been impossible to imagine: clear-as-day footage of a jaguar plodding through the impenetrable Amazon, or a bicolored-spined porcupine balancing on a branch, or a troop of spider monkeys feeding at a clay lick, or a band of little coatis racing one-by-one from the dense foliage. These are things that even researchers who have spent a lifetime in the Amazon may never see. Now anyone can: scientists at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park have recently begun using camera trap videos to take movies of animals few will ever view in their lifetimes. The videos—following years of photo camera trapping—provide an intimate view of a world increasingly threatened by the oil industry.


Has Brazil turned against its progressive environmental policies?

(09/30/2013) Last year, Brazil rolled back crucial parts of its landmark Forestry Code, potentially opening vast tracts of forest for destruction; it is also moving ahead on a number of Amazon dams, including the infamous Belo Monte, despite international condemnation and conflict with indigenous people. Meanwhile, a new law under consideration proposes allowing large-scale mining in protected areas. Given this a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science argues that Brazil has thrown off its once admired mantle of environmental legislation, imperiling hundreds of thousands of species in the most biodiverse country on Earth.


Yasuni could still be spared oil drilling

(08/26/2013) When Ecuadorean President, Rafael Correa, announced on August 15th that he was abandoning an innovative program to spare three blocs of Yasuni National Park from oil drilling, it seemed like the world had tossed away its most biodiverse ecosystem. However, environmental groups and activists quickly responded that there may be another way to keep oil companies out of Yasuni's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) blocs: a national referendum.


Brazil's military takes on illegal loggers to protect nearly-extinct tribe

(07/18/2013) Brazil has launched a military campaign to evict illegal loggers working from the fringes of an indigenous reserve home to the Awá people, reports Survival International. Inhabiting the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Brazil, only around 450 Awá, also known as Guajá, survive today, and around a quarter of these have chosen voluntary isolation.


Amazonian students help monitor threatened frog populations

(07/01/2013) According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, amphibians are the most threatened group of animals on Earth: currently around 30 percent of the world's amphibians are listed as threatened with extinction. However this percentage doesn't include those species about which too little is known to evaluate (26 percent). Amphibians face many threats but two of the largest are habitat loss and the lethal chytrid fungus, which has rapidly spread worldwide and is likely responsible for numerous extinctions. But conservationists are coming up with innovative and creative ways to keep amphibians from disappearing, including a program from the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) that is working with students in the Peruvian Amazon to monitor frog populations.


Over 30 tons of explosives to be detonated in Manu National Park buffer zone

(06/24/2013) A consortium of gas companies headed by Pluspetrol and including Hunt Oil plans on detonating approximately 38 tons of explosives in the south-east Peruvian Amazon in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The detonations are part of 2D and 3D seismic tests planned by Pluspetrol in its search for new gas deposits in the Camisea region—plans that are currently pending approval by Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM).


Bird extravaganza: scientists discover 15 new species of birds in the Amazon

(06/12/2013) From 2000-2009, scientists described on average seven new bird species worldwide every year. Discovering a new bird is one of the least common of any species group, given that birds are highly visible, mobile, and have been scrutinized for centuries by passionate ornithologists and birders. But descriptions this year already blows away the record year over the last decade (in 2001 when nine new birds were described): scientists working in the southern Amazon have recorded an incredible 15 new species of birds according to the Portuguese publication Capa Aves. In fact, this is the largest group of new birds uncovered in the Brazilian in the Amazon in 140 years.


11,000 barrels of oil spill into the Coca River in the Amazon

(06/12/2013) On May 31st, a landslide ruptured an oil pipeline in Ecuadorean Amazon, sending around 11,000 barrels of oil ( 420,000 gallons) into the Coca River. The oil pollution has since moved into the larger Napo River, which borders Yasuni National Park, and is currently heading downstream into Peru and Brazil. The spill has occurred in a region that is notorious for heavy oil production and decades of contamination, in addition to resistance and lawsuits by indigenous groups.


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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