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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



Amazon deforestation speeding global warming

(05/27/2015) Human activity has destroyed huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest's biomass as trees are cleared to make way for pasture, soy fields, and other developments. Now, a new study has determined how much that destruction has contributed to climate change.


Videos reveal rare birds, wild monkeys, and jaguar family in oil-exploited park

(05/11/2015) A compilation of new camera trap videos from Yasuni National Park shows off rarely seen species like the rufuos-vented ground cuckoo and the short-eared dog as well as odd behavior, like sloths licking salt from the ground. The compilation is produced by Diego Mosquera, manager and head of the camera trap program at Tiputini Biodiversity Station.


Featured video: the Uncharted Amazon trailer

(04/29/2015) The up-coming documentary, Uncharted Amazon, promises to highlight both the little-seen wildlife and the people of the Las Piedras River system in the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most remote wildernesses on the planet.


Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate

(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.


Brazil confirms rising deforestation in the Amazon

(03/14/2015) The Brazilian government has officially confirmed that deforestation in the Amazon is pacing sharply higher than a year ago. Figures released last week by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that forest clearing detected by DETER — a short term deforestation monitoring system based on coarse satellite imagery — is 63 percent higher for the twelve months ended January 31, 2015 relative to the year earlier period.


Photo essay: filming in the remote Amazon

(03/09/2015) You wake up at 4:30 AM, a little before the first rays of tropical sun begin to dance behind the treetops. You put on your wet clothes from the previous day, pack your bag, and pick up your tripod. The jungle is shrouded in a thick mist from the previous nights rain. As you walk, you recognize many of the strange calls that echo between the trees.


The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest

(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.


Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit

(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.


Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014

(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.


Edited Reality: What I Learned from Filming Eaten Alive

(12/22/2014) On November 3, 2014, I woke up to check my flight status from Bangalore to New York. What I found when I opened my laptop was a mindboggling amount of emails, hate mail, death threats, and interview requests. The numbers were staggering. The night before, the Discovery Channel had aired the first trailers for the show they decided to call Eaten Alive.


Indigenous communities 'among the very few best protectors' of Peruvian Amazon

(12/12/2014) A new report examines the effects of timber harvesting, gold mining, agriculture, and oil and natural gas drilling that have been on the rise recently in the Peruvian Amazon, and states that ensuring indigenous land rights is a key tool in the fight to protect it.


Indigenous leader murdered before he could attend Climate Summit

(12/08/2014) Days before José Isidro Tendetza Antún was supposed to travel to the UN Climate Summit in Lima to publicly file a complaint against a massive mining operation, he went missing. Now, the Guardian reports that the body of the Shuar indigenous leader has been found, bound and buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Zamora River.


Giant stone face unveiled in the Amazon rainforest (video)

(12/04/2014) A new short film documents the journey of an indigenous tribe hiking deep into their territory in the Peruvian Amazon to encounter a mysterious stone countenance that was allegedly carved by ancient peoples. According to Handcrafted Films, which produced the documentary entitled The Reunion, this was the first time the Rostro Harakbut has been filmed.


Threatened indigenous forests store more than half the Amazon's carbon

(12/02/2014) A new study released today finds the total carbon load locked up in parts of the Amazon rainforest held by indigenous groups to be much higher than previously estimated – an amount that, if released, would be capable of destabilizing the earth’s atmosphere. But because of flimsy land rights, these areas stand at risk of deforestation.


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.


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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