Brazil's forests

By Rhett A. Butler [Last update August 14, 2020]

Brazil holds about one-third of the world's remaining primary tropical rainforests, including about 60% the Amazon rainforest. Terrestrially speaking, it is also the most biodiverse country on Earth, with more than 34,000 described species of plants, 1,813 species of birds, 1,022 amphibians, 648 mammals, and 814 reptiles.

About 80% of Brazil's tropical forest cover is found in the Amazon Basin, a mosaic of ecosystems and vegetation types including rainforests (the vast majority), seasonal forests, deciduous forests, flooded forests, and savannas, including the woody cerrado. This region has experienced an exceptional extent of forest loss over the past two generations—an area exceeding 760,000 square kilometers, or about 19 percent of its total surface area of 4 million square kilometers, has been cleared in the Amazon since 1970, when only 2.4 percent of the Amazon's forests had been lost. The increase in Amazon deforestation in the early 1970s coincided with the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway, which opened large forest areas to development by settlers and commercial interests. In more recent years, growing populations in the Amazon region, combined with increased viability of agricultural operations, have caused a further rise in deforestation rates.

Natural forest in the Brazilian Amazon (Amazonia) by year

This data excludes extensive areas degraded by fires and selective logging, nor forest regrowth, which by one Brazilian government estimate occurs on about 20% of deforested areas. The area of Amazon forest degraded each year in Brazil is thought to be roughly equivalent to the amount of forest cleared. Forest degradation is significant because degraded forests are more likely to be cleared in the future. Degraded forest is also more susceptible to fires.

Why is the Amazon rainforest disappearing?

Historically the majority of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was the product of subsistence farmers, but in recent decades this has changed, with a greater proportion of forest clearing driven by large landowners and corporations. The majority of deforestation in the region can be attributed to land clearing for pasture by commercial and speculative interests.

In the early phase of this transition, Brazilian deforestation was strongly correlated to the economic health of the country: the decline in deforestation from 1988-1991 nicely matched the economic slowdown during the same period, while the rocketing rate of deforestation from 1993-1998 paralleled Brazil's period of rapid economic growth. During lean times, ranchers and developers do not have the cash to expand their pasturelands and operations, while the government lacks the budget flexibility to underwrite highways and colonization programs and grant tax breaks and subsidies to agribusiness, logging, and mining interests.

But this dynamic shifted in the mid-2000s, when the link between deforestation and the broader Brazilian economy began to wane. Between 2004 and 2012 the annual rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 80% to the lowest levels recorded since annual record keeping began in the late 1980s. This decline occurred at the same time that Brazil's economy expanded 40 percent and agricultural output surged.

Tree cover loss and primary forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon according to analysis of satellite data by Hansen et al 2020
Comparison of data on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2001-2019, between official Brazilian government data and Hansen et al 2020.

Why did Amazon deforestation decline?

There are several reasons commonly cited for the decline in Brazil's deforestation rate between 2004 and 2012.

One of the most important active measures was the launch of the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm) in 2004. PPCDAm aimed to reduce deforestation rates continuously and facilitate conditions that support a transition towards a sustainable economic development model in the region. PPCDAm had three main components: land tenure and spatial planning, environmental monitoring and control, and supporting sustainable production.

These components resulted in increased enforcement of environmental laws; improved forest monitoring by satellite, which enabled law enforcement to take action; new incentives for utilizing already deforested lands; and expanded protected areas and indigenous reserves. A byproduct of PPCDAm was heightened sensitivity to environmental criticism among private sector companies and emerging awareness of the values of ecosystem services afforded by the Amazon.

Other factors also played a part in the decline in deforestation, including macroeconomic trends like a stronger Brazilian currency, which reduced the profitability of export-driven agriculture; prioritization of non-rainforest areas like the adjacent cerrado ecosystem for agribusiness expansion; and increased diversification in the Brazilian economy as a whole.

Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Why has progress in reducing Amazon deforestation stalled?

Progress in reducing deforestation stalled after 2012 and forest loss has been trending upward since. There is debate over why this is the case, but some researchers argue that Brazil achieved about as much as it could through law enforcement and other punitive measures ("the stick" in the proverbial "the carrot and stick" approach). Reducing deforestation further requires sufficient economic incentives ("the carrot") to maintain forests as healthy and productive ecosystems. Put another way, standing forest needs to be made more valuable than clearing it for pasture or crops.

By that line of thought, the political impetus for reducing deforestation began to wane as ranchers, farmers, investors, and land speculators grew tried of fines, threats of legal action, and prohibitions against clearing. Political movements like the ruralistas pushed harder for relation of environmental laws and amnesty for past transgressions. These interests gained momentum when the Temer administration came to power in 2016 and won more clout with the election of Jair Bolsonaro in late 2018. Bolsonaro, who campaigned on the promise to open the Amazon to extractive industries and agribusiness while disparaging environmentalists and indigenous peoples, immediately set about dismantling protections for the Amazon when he took office in January 2019. Deforestation increased sharply thereafter.

Causes of deforestation in the Amazon

In evaluating deforestation in the Amazon, it is important to understand both direct and indirect drivers of forest loss.

Direct drivers of deforestation including conversion of forests for pasture, farmland, and plantations, as well as surface mining, dams that inundate forested areas, and intense fires.

Indirect drivers of deforestation include more subtle factors, like insecure land tenure, corruption, poor law enforcement, infrastructure projects, policies that favor conversion over conservation, and selective logging that create conditions or enable activities that facilitate forest clearing.

Pie chart showing drivers of deforestation in the Amazon
Causes of deforestation in the Amazon, 2001-2013 Share of direct deforestation
Cattle ranching63%
Small-scale agriculture
Includes both subsistence and commercial
12%
Fires
Sub-canopy fires often result in degradation, not deforestation
9%
Agriculture
Large-scale industrial agriculture like soy and plantations
8%
Logging
Selective logging commonly results in degradation, not deforestation
6%
Other
Mining, urbanization, road construction, dams, etc.
2%

 

Cattle ranching

Conversion of rainforest for cattle pasture is the single largest driver of deforestation in Brazil. Clearing forest for pasture is the cheapest and easiest way to establish an informal claim to land, which can then be sold on to other parties at a profit. In some parts of the Brazilian Amazon, cleared rainforest land can be worth more than eight times that of land with standing forest. According, cattle ranching is often viewed as a way to speculate on appreciating land prices.

However since 2000, cattle ranching in the Amazon has become increasingly industrialized, meaning that more ranchers are producing cattle to sell commercially. Most of the beef ends up in the domestic market, but secondary products like hides and leather are often exported.

These exports left Brazilian cattle ranchers exposed in the late 2000s when Greenpeace launched a high profile campaign against companies that were sourcing leather and other products from major Brazilian cattle processors. That campaign led major companies to demand zero deforestation cattle. Combined with a crackdown by public prosecutors, the Brazilian cattle industry started to shift substantially toward less damaging practices in late 2009 by signing the "Cattle Agreement", which barred the sourcing of cattle from illegally deforested areas.

However by the mid-2010s investigations revealed that some major cattle producers were circumventing the safeguards established under the Cattle Agreement by laundering cattle through third party ranches. Unlike soy (see below), cattle are highly mobile, making it easy for ranchers to shift livestock clandestinely.

Deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon. The isolated tree is a Brazil nut. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Soy

The model for the Brazilian cattle industry to move toward zero deforestation came from the country's soy industry, which underwent a similar transformation three years earlier. That shift was also initiative by a Greenpeace campaign, which targeted the soy-based chicken feed used by McDonald's in Europe. Within months of that campaign's launch, the largest soy crushers and traders in the Amazon had established a moratorium on buying soy produced via deforestation in the Amazon.

Timber

Logging in the Brazilian Amazon remains plagued by poor management, destructive practices, and outright fraud. Vast areas of rainforest are logged -- legally and illegally -- each year. According to government sources and NGOs, the vast majority of logging in the Brazilian Amazon is illegal.

Palm oil

At present, Amazon palm oil is not a major driver of deforestation in Brazil. While there are concerns that it could eventually exacerbate deforestation, there is also a chance that it could replace degraded cattle pasture, boosting economic productivity at a low environmental cost.

Dams, roads, and other infrastructure projects

Brazil's infrastructure spree from the late-2000s to mid-2010s was interrupted by the corruption scandals of the mid-2010s. Many of the scores of dams being built across the Amazon basin were put on hold following the Lava Jato scandal that ensnared senior politicians in several countries and executives at the infrastructure giant Odebrecht. Yet the scandals also helped usher in the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, which reinvigorated the push to build roads, dams, and mines in the Amazon.

Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Conservation in Brazil

While Brazil may be better known for losing its forests, during the 2000s it easily led the world in establishing new protected areas. Those gains were consolidated in 2014, when donors established a trust fund that will underwrite the country's protected areas system through 2039.

Beyond strict protected areas, more than a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon lies within indigenous reservations, which research has shown reduce deforestation even more effectively than national parks. Overall nearly half the Brazilian Amazon is under some form of protection.

Brazil's other forests

While the Amazon rainforest is Brazil's most famous forest, the country also has other types of forest.

The Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest is a drier tropical forest that lies along the coast and inland areas to the south of the Amazon. It has been greatly reduced by conversion to agriculture -- especially sugar cane and cattle pasture -- and urbanization. The Mata Atlântica is arguably Brazil's most threatened forest.

Forest loss in Brazil's Mata Atlantica according to National Space Research Institute, INPE

The Pantanal is an inland wetland that borders Paraguay and Bolivia and covers an area of 154,884 square kilometers. It includes a mosaic of forests and flooded grasslands.

The cerrado biome is a tropical grassland that covers 1.9 square kilometers, or approximately 22 percent of the country. It is being rapidly destroyed for agriculture.

The chaco biome is a dry forest ecosystem that extends into Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Brazil's tropical forests

Primary forest extentTree cover extent
StateDominant forest biome20012020% losss20012020% losss
AcreAmazon13,505,69012,583,4186.8%14312070134293788.1%
AlagoasAtlantic forest35,53734,9331.7%57551851079211.4%
AmapáAmazon10,934,64510,792,2681.3%12172480121887352.5%
AmazonasAmazon143,485,183141,217,4831.6%1505680051482690452.0%
BahiaAtlantic forest1,297,7021,187,3478.5%187766221518773716.5%
CearáAtlantic forest74,39572,5012.5%2974477280712710.0%
Espírito SantoAtlantic forest128,492124,4063.2%1813455167559918.8%
GoiásAtlantic forest / Cerrado388,506328,32915.5%7736542680816313.3%
MaranhãoAmazon3,185,7322,483,15322.1%210154431639155623.0%
Mato GrossoAmazon / Cerrado / Chaco39,009,64531,696,95318.7%563962284616815018.7%
Mato Grosso do SulAtlantic forest / Cerrado1,489,0951,356,7178.9%10191243876195312.6%
Minas GeraisAtlantic forest / Cerrado268,244258,6883.6%183574221745008214.0%
ParáAmazon92,225,89683,576,9739.4%1079637179701346412.4%
ParaíbaAtlantic forest23,76423,5121.1%11214826632639.6%
ParanáAtlantic forest1,044,8811,020,2532.4%7947474734017014.1%
PernambucoAtlantic forest42,72741,0014.0%1563136125875910.7%
PiauíCaatinga141,286139,7851.1%11538381930006310.3%
Rio de JaneiroAtlantic forest587,724581,3631.1%180539817379223.8%
Rio Grande do NorteAtlantic forest7,3217,2870.5%90943249110611.0%
Rio Grande do SulAtlantic forest / Cerrado24,16624,1460.1%763611273936658.1%
RondôniaAmazon15,649,57812,470,56320.3%184855791490877921.7%
RoraimaAmazon15,425,75914,683,7384.8%17889964170758365.7%
Santa CatarinaAtlantic forest1,205,5901,176,0142.5%6354636603158012.2%
São PauloAtlantic forest1,837,3211,817,0951.1%6560955646900412.1%
SergipeAtlantic forest17,94016,6707.1%54359139572221.5%
TocantinsAmazon / Cerrado1,194,996995,67116.7%11162164845997216.1%

 

Recent news on Brazil's tropical forests

Countering Bolsonaro’s UN speech, Greenpeace releases Amazon deforestation photos
- Hours after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro painted a rosy picture of his administration’s environmental record during a United Nations speech, Greenpeace and other environmental groups released a set of photos showing continued deforestation and fires in Earth’s largest rainforest.
- Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cited a 32 percent reduction in deforestation in the month of August relative to a year ago, the country’s near decade-old Forest Code, and lands set aside as Indigenous territories — which he’s fought to undermine and dismantle — as evidence of Brazil’s contributions toward mitigating climate change.
- But activists pushed back on Bolsonaro’s statement, noting rising deforestation in the Amazon and his administration’s rollback of environmental laws and law enforcement, while publishing dramatic images captured in two Amazon states between September 14 and 17.
- Brazil does have some of the strongest forest protection laws on the books among major tropical forest nations, but enforcement has been lax, especially under Bolsonaro, when the deforestation rate in the Amazon has climbed to the highest level since 2008. Bolsonaro’s reference to one month of deforestation data doesn’t reflect the trend of rising deforestation that he’s presided over since taking office in January 2019.

Fires in the Amazon have already impacted 90% of plant and animal species
- New study addresses the effects of fires on biodiversity loss in the world’s largest forest during the last two decades.
- Researchers measured the impacts on the habitats of 14,000 species of plants and animals, finding that 93 to 95% suffered some consequence of the fires.
- Primates were the most affected, as they depend on trees for movement, food and shelter. Rare and endemic species with restricted habitats suffered the strongest impacts.
- The study assessed two decades of fires between 2001 and 2019 and confirmed the impact of environmental policies on deforestation cycles in the Amazon; law enforcement was concluded to have direct impact on the extent and volume of fires.

Illegal logging reaches Amazon’s untouched core, ‘terrifying’ research shows
- Satellite imagery shows that logging activity is spreading from peripheral areas of the Amazon toward the rainforest’s core, according to groundbreaking research.
- The satellite-based mapping of seven of Brazil’s nine Amazonian states showed a “terrifying” pattern of logging advance that cleared an area three times the size of the city of São Paulo between August 2019 and July 2020 alone.
- At the state level, lack of transparency in logging data makes it impossible to calculate how much of the timber production is illegal, experts say.
- Evidence of cutting in Indigenous reserves and conservation units — where logging is prohibited — make clear that illegal logging accounts for much of the activity, according to the report.

Deforestation sweeps national park in Brazil as land speculators advance
- Between January and early September, 3,542 deforestation alerts have been confirmed in primary forest within Campos Amazônicos National Park, according to satellite data, representing a 37% jump over the average amount of forest loss for the previous five years.
- Much of the occupation of the Campos Amazônicos park is happening through illegitimate land claims, fueled by hopes that protections on the park may be loosened in the future, environmentalists say. Even though the park is under federal protection, this hasn’t stopped invaders from falsely registering slices of it as their property.
- Environmentalists warn the social and environmental impacts could be devastating. Campos Amazônicos wraps around the Tenharim do Igarapé Preto Indigenous Reserve, which was until recently under attack by illegal miners who descended on the territory in search of cassiterite; sources say the fresh incursions into Campos Amazônicos could put the area back at risk.
- The park also holds one of the most striking enclaves of cerrado in the Amazon rainforest, housing stretches of shrubs, grasslands and dry forest typical of the savanna biome. Campos Amazônicos is also part of the Southern Amazon Conservation Corridor that represents one of the best-preserved stretches of the rainforest.

After surge, Amazon deforestation slows for second straight month
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon declined for the second straight month according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE.
- Year to date, INPE’s DETER deforestation alert system has registered 5,822 square kilometers of forest clearance. At this time last year the tally stood at 6,099 square kilometers.
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit a 12-year high last year.

As illegal logging route in Peru nears Brazil, Indigenous groups warn of calamity
- Loggers are illegally reopening an abandoned road in Peru’s Ucayali region, threatening the dozens of Indigenous territories along the country’s border with Brazil, activists say.
- The UC-105 road reportedly cut through the Sawawo Indigenous Reserve in Peru last month, stopping just 11 kilometers (less than 7 miles) from the Brazilian border.
- The project is not authorized by Peru’s government but has forged ahead anyway, with no environmental impact studies or consultation with communities, Indigenous leaders say.
- Critics of the road say it will bring a surge in deforestation, drug trafficking and river degradation for the region’s Indigenous communities, who have been fighting off the loggers for decades and are now demanding authorities act to stop the advance of the road.

Amazon, meet Amazon: Tech giant rolls out rainforest carbon offset project
- Tech giant Amazon has announced a nature-based carbon removal project in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
- The project will help small farmers produce sustainable agricultural produce through reforestation and regenerative agroforestry programs, in exchange for carbon credits that will go to the internet company.
- Called the Agroforestry and Restoration Accelerator, the initiative is expected to support 3,000 small farmers in Pará state and restore an area the size of Seattle in the first three years, and in the process remove up to 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through 2050.
- In addition to addressing climate and social issues, the partners say the project intends to address the shortcomings of the carbon credit market by creating new standards for the industry.

New study offers latest proof that Brazilian Amazon is now a net CO2 source
- The Brazilian Amazon has been transformed from a carbon dioxide sink to a source for new emissions over the past two decades, a new study shows.
- While the Amazon as a whole, which straddles nine countries, has absorbed about 1.7 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent more than it has emitted in the past 20 years, the Brazilian portion alone has emitted a net 3.6 billion metric tons during that period.
- This study by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) is unique because it was able to go deeper in analyzing changes in forest emissions from different parts of the rainforest compared to previous research, says author Matt Finer.
- Satellite monitoring data show that formally protected areas and lands controlled by Indigenous peoples hold the best hope for preserving the Amazon and its function as a bulwark against climate change.

Climate change threatens traditional extractive communities in the Amazon
- Traditional peoples in the Amazon are already experiencing the scientific community’s warnings that rising temperatures will impact those who depend on the forest for their livelihood.
- Brazil nuts, açaí berries, andiroba oil, copaíba oil, rubber, cacao and cupuaçu fruits are some of the products at risk of disappearance or reduced production in the next 30 years.
- In addition to climate change’s environmental impact on these resources, the social impact will likely bring worsening poverty and an exodus of traditional peoples to urban areas.

Grain production depends on ending deforestation, studies show
- Recent scientific studies confirm what Brazilian farmers already feel in practice: the uncontrolled production of agricultural commodities is destroying the productivity and profits of agribusiness itself, a cycle researchers are calling “agro-suicide.”
- Regions such as the southern Amazon and Matopiba (the borderland between the Brazilian states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia) in the Cerrado savanna are the most affected by lack of rain, prolonged rains and waves of extreme heat.
- Resulting financial losses are expected to reach at least $4.5 billion annually by 2050, according to a conservative estimate; if deforestation continues unchecked, damage could reach $9 billion per year.
- Though grim, the scenario can still be reversed; one recommendation from the study is to adopt a moratorium on soy in the Cerrado, inspired by the Amazon Soy Moratorium.

Independent monitoring suggests sharp jump in Amazon rainforest destruction
- Independent analysis released last week by a Brazilian NGO provides evidence of a sharp increase in the rate of forest destruction in Earth’s largest rainforest over the past year.
- Imazon’s SAD deforestation alert system detected 2,095 square kilometers (809 square miles) of forest clearing during July, which brought the total deforestation recorded since August 1, 2020 to 10,476 square kilometers, the highest on record since at least 2008.
- By Imazon’s count, the amount of forest loss detected by its deforestation monitoring system was up 58% over a year ago, and 107% relative to two years ago.
- In contrast, Brazil’s national space research institute INPE reported a 6.8% drop in deforestation compared to a year ago when it released its alert-based data two weeks ago. Discrepancies between the two systems can be attributed up to differences in how they measure deforestation, though the data from the systems typically move mostly in tandem.

Brazil punching below its weight in getting forest products to the world
- Brazil may have given its name to the Brazil nut, but it exports less than 6% of the global export market of the nut, while Bolivia supplies 52%.
- That’s one of several key findings from new research that shows that Brazil, home to a third of all tropical forests, is punching well below its own weight when it comes to the value of its exports of forest-derived commodities.
- Experts highlight several key obstacles preventing production and export of these commodities from being scaled up, including logistics, lack of technical expertise and equipment, and costly certification requirements for breaking into markets like the EU.
- Proponents say ramping up production and exports of forest commodities could be the key to achieving economic and social development in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as a way of reviving vast swaths of degraded and abandoned areas.

In Brazil’s Acre, smoke from fires threatens health, could worsen COVID-19
- Fires are gaining momentum in Acre, a state in southwesten Brazil 80% covered in old-growth Amazon rainforest, where a historic drought and high levels of deforestation have experts worried that this will be a bad year for fires
- Wildfires generate small particulate matter which, when inhaled, can travel into the lungs, bloodstream, and vital organs, causing serious damage, akin to cigarette smoke.
- Data from Acre’s air-quality monitoring network, the largest in the Amazon, show that during the peak burning seasons in 2019 and 2020, the rates of particulate matter hovered well above the level recognized by the World Health Organization as clean and safe for breathing
- Wildfire smoke has been linked to higher COVID-19 mortality rates, threatening to compound what is already one of the worst burdens of coronavirus infections and deaths in the world. At particular risk are Indigenous populations, who suffer mortality rates 1.5 times the average in Brazil.

A bad fire year predicted in Brazil’s Acre state. What’s to be done?
- As of Aug. 15, 29 major fires have been set this year in the southwestern Brazilian state of Acre, burning more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres), compared to just one major fire reported by the same date last year, which burned 20 hectares (50 acres).
- A recent study found that unprecedented levels of fires burned in standing rainforest in 2019, which was neither a drought nor an El Niño year, meaning the risk of forest fires is rising, even when rainfall is normal.
- The authors say this adds to mounting evidence that the discourse and policies of President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, which began in January 2019, have relaxed regulations and emboldened land grabbers and those who set illegal fires.  
- Researchers say they hope that new platforms to monitor and predict fires, as well as educational programs about fires and fire alternatives in schools, communities and on the radio will lead to behavioral changes and less fire, but say government support and investment is needed.

2015-2016 El Niño caused 2.5 billion trees to die in just 1% of the Amazon
- New research shows how a combination of high temperatures, intense drought, and human-caused fires resulted in dramatic forest loss in the Lower Tapajós Basin in the Brazilian Amazon.
- According to the authors, forest reduction meant that one of the world’s largest carbon sinks generated almost 500 million tons of CO2 emissions, an amount higher than the annual emissions of developed countries such as the U.K. and Australia.
- Due to climate change, more frequent extreme droughts are predicted to affect most of the Amazon basin in this century; in this scenario, the 2015 El Niño could be seen as a window into the future.

Amazon forest loss hits second highest level since 2008
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon declined slightly over the past 12 months but still reached the second highest level since 2008, according to data from the country’s national space research institute, INPE.
- INPE’s satellite-based deforestation alert system registered 1,498 square kilometers (578 square miles) in July, bringing the 12-month total to 8,591 square kilometers, 6.8% below the total this time last year when the extent of deforestation reached the highest level since 2008.
- Deforestation between January 1 and July 31, 2021 is up 3.4% over last year.
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for about two-thirds of Earth’s largest rainforest, has been trending upward since 2012.

July data put Brazil on track for slight reduction in Amazon deforestation
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on track for the first year-over-year decline since President Jair Bolsonaro took office, according to data released today by the country’s national space research institute INPE.
- INPE’s satellite-based deforestation alert system has recorded 1,417 square kilometers (547 square miles) of forest clearing through the first 30 days of July. Final figures for the month are expected next week.
- But the new data won’t ease worries about trends in the Amazon. On Tuesday, Brazil’s lower house of Congress passed a bill that critics say will legalize illegal land-grabbing in the Amazon.
- Environmentalists and scientists are also concerned that forest loss could worsen in coming months due to abnormally dry conditions across vast swathes of the Amazon.

Why we need the government to curb Amazon deforestation? (commentary)
- Deforestation is rising in the Brazilian Amazon, with last year’s forest loss reaching the high level since 2008.
- Brazilian lawyers Daniela Castro, the founder and CEO of Impacta Advocacy, and Silvia Gonçalves, head of projects at Impacta Advocacy, argue that combatting deforestation in Brazil requires government intervention.
- “Without government action, there won’t be better days for the rainforest,” write Castro and Gonçalves. “The fact is only the government has the resources, institutions and power on a scale capable of halting deforestation.”
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

As blazes on embargoed Amazon land surge, links to meat industry emerge
- An analysis of fires on land sanctioned for illegal deforestation show the number of major fires has increased during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
- Brazil’s largest meatpackers have sourced hundreds of head of cattle from a farmer in Mato Grosso state linked to repeated cases of deforestation resulting in multiple embargoes and subsequent fires.
- Published in cooperation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, these findings raise serious questions about the effectiveness and enforcement of Brazil’s embargo system and undermine the “deforestation-free” claims of multinational meat companies and their international customers.

Lessons from Brazil’s São Paulo droughts (commentary)
- São Paulo is increasingly facing severe droughts, as is the case in 2021. In 2014 the city came close to having its reservoirs run dry. Brazil’s agriculture and hydropower also depend on reliable rains.
- Anthropogenic climate change is increasing the fluctuations in ocean surface water temperatures, and the frequency is increasing of the combination of warm water in the Atlantic and cold water in the Pacific off the coasts of South America, a combination that leads to droughts in São Paulo.
- The trends in ocean temperatures are expected to worsen these droughts, but what could make them truly catastrophic is the prospect of this variation being combined with the impact of deforestation depriving São Paulo of the water that is recycled by the Amazon forest and transported to southeastern Brazil by the “flying rivers.” The lessons are clear: control global warming and stop deforestation.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.