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

Brazil moves toward transfer of deforestation and fire monitoring to military
- In a recent announcement, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão defended the creation of a new agency that would have full authority over Amazon deforestation and fire monitoring satellite alerts. For three decades, INPE, Brazil’s civilian space agency, has held that role, making data publicly available.
- The VP claims INPE satellite monitoring is outdated and doesn’t see through clouds. Critics of the government note that the space institute’s Prodes and Deter systems continue to provide excellent data on Amazon fires and deforestation, usable for enforcement, while clouds matter little in the dry season when most fires occur.
- Critics contend that multiple moves by the government to disempower INPE are likely ways of denying transparency, ending INPE’s civil authority, and placing deforestation and fire monitoring satellites under secretive military control.
- So far, an effort to fund new military satellites has failed. Meanwhile, Norway has partnered with the companies Planet and Airbus to offer free satellite images for monitoring tropical forests including the Amazon. Such publicly available images from Planet, NASA and other sources could thwart Bolsonaro’s possible attempt at secrecy.

Exploring the history of the Amazon and its peoples: an interview with John Hemming
- Dr. John Hemming is a legendary author and historian who has spent the past six decades documenting the history of Indigenous cultures and exploration in the Amazon.
- Hemming has traveled in the remotest parts of the Amazon, visiting 45 tribes and being present with Brazilian ethnographers at the time of four first contacts. Of the course of his career Hemming has authored more than two dozen books from the definitive history of the Spanish conquistadors’ conquest of Peru to a 2,100-page, three-volume chronicle of 500 years of Indigenous peoples and exploration in the Amazon.
- Hemming’s latest book, People of the Rainforest: The Villas Boas Brothers, Explorers and Humanitarians of the Amazon, tells the remarkable story of the Villas Boas brothers, middle-class Brazilians from São Paulo who would go on to become arguably the largest driving force for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest and recognition of the rights of its Indigenous peoples.
- Hemming spoke about his work and the legacy of the Villas Boas brothers in a September 2020 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

New study shows where we should grow more forest to fight climate change
- In a new study published this week in Nature, researchers found that, globally, rates of potential forest carbon sequestration presumed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were underestimated by 32%. When considering just tropical regions, that number went up to 53%.
- Conversely, the study found that the maximum climate mitigation potential from reforestation – 2.43 billion metric tons – is 11% lower than previously reported. This is because the study took a more nuanced look at potential reforestation areas whereas the IPCC applied estimates more evenly across the planet.
- The study reveals that China, Brazil, and Indonesia have the greatest potential for aboveground carbon sequestration in potential restoration areas, with Russia, the U.S., India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo falling closely behind.

As the Amazon burns, what happens to its biodiversity?
- More than 40% of fires in the Brazilian Amazon this year are burning in standing forests, with more than 4.6 million acres already impacted this year. While far from fully studied, such forest fires have major repercussions for flora and fauna.
- A study found, for example, that the abundance and types of dung beetle species alters in burned Amazon forests. Dung beetles play vital roles in nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Other research detected declines in butterflies, specialist forest ant species and other litter-dwelling invertebrates, some birds, small mammals and snakes in newly burnt areas.
- Rainforest trees are especially vulnerable because fire is relatively new to the Amazon, and trees there have not developed fire resistance. A rainforest fire, burning through the forest for the first time, kills most small trees and seedlings and can kill 50% of large trees.
- Multiple fires over time continue reducing biodiversity. Some scientists fear that a combination of fires, increasing drought due to climate change, and deforestation could lead to a tipping point — with devastating impacts for the Amazon, which harbors 10% of the world’s biodiversity.

BlackRock’s $400m stake in Amazon meatpackers defies sustainability cred
- BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, has $408 million invested, via various funds, in Brazil’s top three meatpackers operating in the Amazon.
- These holdings are at odds with BlackRock’s stated position of pursuing environmentally sustainable investments, given that the meatpackers — JBS, Marfrig and Minerva — are closely associated with deforestation in the Amazon.
- Experts say the sheer size of BlackRock’s stake in these companies could be decisive in forcing the meatpackers to adopt deforestation-free practices.

Rieli Franciscato died protecting isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon (commentary)
- Rieli Franciscato of the Brazilian government’s Indigenous affairs agency FUNAI was killed last week on the edge of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous territory in Rondonia.
- Franciscato, 56, was a sertanista, a “field person” who works in the most remote parts of the Brazilian Amazon. Franciscato specifically worked to protect the rights and territory of Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation in the Amazon rainforest. These peoples are sometimes referred to as “uncontacted tribes” in the press.
- In this commentary, Enrique Ortiz, Senior Program Director at the Andes Amazon Fund, writes that Franciscato “died in the hands of those he loved” and notes his death was probably at least part to blame on outsiders who have been invading Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau lands and threatening the tribe. “One can imagine that the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau can see the advances into their territory as a threat to their survival,” he writes.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In Brazil’s Pantanal, a desperate struggle to save a hyacinth macaw refuge from fire
- Firefighters are working around the clock to protect a forested ranch in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state that’s an important refuge of the threatened hyacinth macaw.
- The Pantanal wetlands in which the ranch is located are experiencing severe wildfires, sparked by human activity and exacerbated by drought and climate change.
- The São Francisco do Perigara ranch is home to around 1,000 hyacinth macaws — 15% of the total population of the species in the wild, and 20% of its population in the Pantanal.

Rise in Amazon deforestation slows in August, but fires surge
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was more than 20 percent lower for the second straight month according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE. But forest loss in the world’s largest rainforest remains well above the average of the past decade.
- INPE’s analysis of satellite data indicates that 1,359 square kilometers of forest — an area 23 times the size of Manhattan — were cleared last month, a 20.7% drop from August 2019. That follows a 26.7% drop in July.
- However INPE’s deforestation data excludes forest loss from fires. More than 1,000 major fires have been registered in the region since late May. Fires in the Amazon have accelerated rapidly in recent weeks, rising to 53 major fires per day in September, up from 18 in August and 2 in July.
- Despite the relative decline during the past two months, deforestation detected by INPE’s short-term alert system has amounted to 8,850 square kilometers over the past year, 10% higher than a year ago when Amazon deforestation hit the highest level since 2008.

Amazon meatpacking plants, a COVID-19 hotspot, may be ground zero for next pandemic
- The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that slaughterhouses are among the outbreak hotspots for the disease because of the low temperatures and crowded production lines.
- But slaughterhouses are also ideal locations for the emergence of new viruses due to the contact between humans and the blood and entrails of cattle.
- Nearly a third of cases where diseases spread from animals to human beings occurred because their natural environments were invaded and destroyed, which puts Brazil’s beef industry, centered in the Amazon, at particularly high risk.
- Yet despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, the financial market keeps ignoring this risk and supporting the beef companies most exposed to deforestation in the Amazon.

BlackRock silent on livestock in latest global warming policy
- In July, BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund manager, said it would take concrete action against at least 53 companies for their inaction regarding global warming and place 191 others under observation.
- But the announcement left out one of the major drivers of global warming: the meat industry, which is the main cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
- In May, Blackrock became the third-biggest shareholder in JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, which was at the centre of a series of allegations this year of illegal deforestation in its supply chain.

Why the health of the Amazon River matters to us all: An interview with Michael Goulding
- Like the rainforest which takes its name, the Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse river on the planet. The river and its tributaries are a critical thoroughfare for an area the size of the continental United States and function as a key source of food and livelihoods for millions of people. Yet despite its vastness and importance, the mighty Amazon is looking increasingly vulnerable due to human activities.
- Few people understand more about the Amazon’s ecology and the wider role it plays across the South American continent than Michael Goulding, an aquatic ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who has worked in the region since the 1970s studying issues ranging from the impact of hydroelectric dams to the epic migration of goliath catfishes. Goulding has written and co-authored some of the most definitive books and papers on the river, its resident species, and its ecological function.
- In recognition of his lifetime of advancing conservation efforts in the Amazon, the Field Museum today honored Goulding with the Parker/Gentry Award. The Award — named after ornithologist Theodore A. Parker III and botanist Alwyn Gentry who were killed in a plane crash during an aerial survey of an Ecuadorian cloud forest in 1993 — is given each year to “an outstanding individual, team or organization in the field of conservation biology whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s natural heritage and whose actions and approach can serve as a model to others.”
- In a September 2020 interview ahead of the prize ceremony, Goulding spoke with Mongabay about his research and the current state of the Amazon.

Around the world, a fire crisis flares up, fueled by human actions
- An increase in fire alerts this year compared to last year could have dire consequences for health, biodiversity and the economy, according to a newly released report by WWF and Boston Consulting Group.
- Though some wildfires are triggered naturally, humans are responsible for an estimated 75% of all wildfires.
- In the Northern Hemisphere, this is attributed to negligence, while in the tropics, fires are often set intentionally to clear land for agriculture.
- The report suggests several urgent actions to address fires, including investing in fire prevention, halting deforestation, raising national goals for emission reductions, bringing fire back to fire-dependent landscapes, clarifying governance and coordinating policies, bringing the private sector on board, and relying on science.

Mercury from gold mining contaminates Amazon communities’ staple fish
- The four species of fish most commonly consumed by Indigenous and riverine people in the Brazilian state of Amapá contain the highest concentrations of mercury.
- In some species, researchers found levels of mercury four times in excess of World Health Organization recommendations.
- The mercury comes from gold-mining activity, where it’s used to separate gold from ore before being burned off and washed into the rivers.
- The health impacts of mercury contamination are well-documented, and include damage to the central nervous system, potentially resulting in learning disabilities for children and tremors and difficulty walking for adults.

$154b in capital has gone to 300 forest-risk companies since the Paris Agreement
- A database of global capital flows into forest-risk companies has been published by Forest and Finance, a joint project of six research and environmental advocacy groups.
- More than 50,000 financial deals were analyzed, showing that at least $153.9 billion in loans and investment were provided to 300 companies in Southeast Asia, Brazil, and West and Central Africa since 2016.
- Of the 15 banks with the largest overall loan portfolios in forest-risk industries, eight are signatories to the U.N.’s Principles for Responsible Banking, which calls for a halt to deforestation.

Europe’s richest countries importing Brazilian beef linked to millions of tons of emissions: Report
- Millions of tons of emissions are embedded in Europe’s Brazilian beef imports each year, equivalent to the annual footprint of between 300,000 and 2.4 million EU citizens, according to a new report by London-based NGO Earthsight.
- Though global emissions are expected to see a record fall this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil is set to defy the trend, with a predicted rise of between 10% and 20%. Deforestation and cattle ranching account for more than half of the country’s emissions.
- Two companies, Brazil’s JBS and Italy’s Silca, were found to be responsible for almost a quarter of the estimated emissions documented by Earthsight, while just eight firms were responsible for more than half of all imported emissions.

Podcast: In the Amazon, women are key to forest conservation
- Women are a driving force in the movement to protect the Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest in the world.
- Joining us on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is environmental journalist Sarah Sax, who recently wrote about the Women Warriors of the Forest, an all-female Indigenous group that is employing new tactics and building new alliances to protect the forests they call home.
- We also interview Dr. Dolors Armenteras, who is a pioneer in the use of remote sensing to monitor Amazon forests and biodiversity, and has been named one of the most influential scientists studying forest fires.
- Despite her pedigree, Armenteras has faced discrimination as a woman scientist, and discusses how she is supporting the next generation of women scientists to help them overcome such biases.

Greenpeace photos illuminate illegal Amazon fires
- The aerial images — captured by photographer Christian Braga over the states of Rondonia, Amazonas, and Mato Grosso from August 16-18, 2020 — show fires burning through recently deforested areas, agricultural areas, degraded forests, and on the edges of dense tropical forests.
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a 120-day ban on fires July 15th, 2020, but satellite data shows the decree is being widely ignored.
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has sharply increased since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.

Friday night follies: Brazil cuts deforestation funding, then restores it
- More than 500 major fires were reported in the Amazon as of last week, most of them illegal. Which is why it seemed a strange moment for Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro administration to announce it was defunding all deforestation and firefighting efforts by government agencies in the Amazon forest and Pantanal wetlands biomes.
- The cuts, totaling R $60 million (US $11.1 million), would have come from the budgets of IBAMA, the nation’s environmental agency, and ICMBio, its national parks agency. Within hours of the funding reduction announcement, the government reversed itself and restored the money taken away.
- Since then experts have argued theories as to the reason for the government’s erratic actions. Some say it is a means of making a show of the anti-environmental policy the administration would truly like to put forward, but cannot for fear of international censure. Others see it as political maneuvering with the Bolsonaro administration.
- Analysts point out that the budget cuts made no fiscal sense, since IBAMA’s most expensive contracts for helicopter and vehicle rentals to curb deforestation and do firefighting are paid up through April 2021 by the Amazon Fund, money mostly provided by Norway and Germany, with more than R $60 million available.

Despite expanding fires, Brazil suspends operations to combat Amazon deforestation
- Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment announced it will suspend all operations to combat illegal deforestation and fire in the Amazon and Pantanal on Monday, August 31, 2020.
- In a statement published on its official web site, the ministry said it would demobilize staff and resources across two agencies: the environmental protection agency IBAMA and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation. The suspension affects 1,805 firefighters, 401 inspectors, six helicopters, 144 vehicles, and ten aircraft.
- The ministry said the decision is the result of a federal budget cut of 60.6 million Brazilian reais.
- The cut comes as fires are currently burning widely across the Amazon.

Brazil green recovery plan could boost economy, add jobs, cut emissions: Report
- If Brazil shifts to a low carbon economy, carbon emissions would be cut by a third while also creating jobs, benefiting economic growth and infrastructure, according to a recent report by the World Resources Institute.
- Brazil’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan could provide an opportunity to implement long-term solutions across multiple sectors that could reduce carbon emissions and Amazon deforestation.
- Study authors hope that the economic benefits of the plan will push the current Jair Bolsonaro administration to adopt a green agenda, even if conservation is not a priority.
- “Climate denial is at a peak, but cost-benefit will be the leading decision-maker, whether or not it benefits the environment.… Due to post-COVID-19 economic recovery plans, we have a window of opportunity that will close in a year and a half or less.” — World Resources Institute Climate Policy Director Carolina Genin.