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.
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.
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.
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.
|Causes of deforestation in the Amazon, 2001-2013||Share of direct deforestation|
Includes both subsistence and commercial
Sub-canopy fires often result in degradation, not deforestation
Large-scale industrial agriculture like soy and plantations
Selective logging commonly results in degradation, not deforestation
Mining, urbanization, road construction, dams, etc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 extent||Tree cover extent|
|State||Dominant forest biome||2001||2020||% losss||2001||2020||% losss|
|Espírito Santo||Atlantic forest||128,492||124,406||3.2%||1813455||1675599||18.8%|
|Goiás||Atlantic forest / Cerrado||388,506||328,329||15.5%||7736542||6808163||13.3%|
|Mato Grosso||Amazon / Cerrado / Chaco||39,009,645||31,696,953||18.7%||56396228||46168150||18.7%|
|Mato Grosso do Sul||Atlantic forest / Cerrado||1,489,095||1,356,717||8.9%||10191243||8761953||12.6%|
|Minas Gerais||Atlantic forest / Cerrado||268,244||258,688||3.6%||18357422||17450082||14.0%|
|Rio de Janeiro||Atlantic forest||587,724||581,363||1.1%||1805398||1737922||3.8%|
|Rio Grande do Norte||Atlantic forest||7,321||7,287||0.5%||909432||491106||11.0%|
|Rio Grande do Sul||Atlantic forest / Cerrado||24,166||24,146||0.1%||7636112||7393665||8.1%|
|Santa Catarina||Atlantic forest||1,205,590||1,176,014||2.5%||6354636||6031580||12.2%|
|São Paulo||Atlantic forest||1,837,321||1,817,095||1.1%||6560955||6469004||12.1%|
|Tocantins||Amazon / Cerrado||1,194,996||995,671||16.7%||11162164||8459972||16.1%|
Recent news on Brazil's tropical forests
Podcast: What are the tropical forest storylines to watch in 2021?
- Happy new year to all of our faithful Mongabay Newscast listeners! For our first episode of the year, we take stock of how the world’s rainforests fared in 2020 and look ahead to the major stories to watch in 2021.
- We’re joined by Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who discusses the impacts of the Covid pandemic on tropical forest conservation efforts, the most important issues likely to impact rainforests in 2021, and why he remains hopeful despite setbacks in recent years.
- We also speak with Joe Eisen, executive director of Rainforest Foundation UK, who helps us dig deeper into the major issues and events that will affect Africa’s rainforests in the coming year.
Indigenous agroforestry revives profitable palm trees and the Atlantic Forest
- Highly popular in Brazil because of its delicious heart, the jussara palm was eaten nearly to the brink of extinction.
- The Indigenous Guarani people from the São Paulo coast are traditional consumers of jussara palm hearts, and decided to reverse the loss by planting thousands of palm trees inside their reserve.
- With more than 100,000 jussara palms planted since 2008, the community now sells hearts and seedlings to tourists and beach house owners. The next step is to start extracting the pulp from jussara berries — similar to açaí berries, the popular superfood — which the group hopes will generate enough income to keep the palm trees standing.
- The palms grow among native trees in an ancient and increasingly popular agricultural technique called agroforestry, which combines woody trees with shrubs, vines, and annuals, in a system that benefits wildlife, builds water tables and soil, provides food, and sequesters carbon.
Lack of protection leaves Spain-size swath of Brazilian Amazon up for grabs
- Fifty million hectares (124 million acres) of undesignated forest in the Brazilian Amazon, an area the size of Spain, is under growing threat of illegal occupation and deforestation facilitated by a controversial government land registry.
- A Greenpeace Brazil study shows 62% of undesignated forest along a stretch of the BR-163 Highway has been illegally invaded and then registered by the occupiers with the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR).
- CAR, a self-declaratory system, was created in 2012 to help identify those responsible for rural plots, however, combined with the current weakening of environmental agencies and of field actions against deforestation, it’s helping legitimize land grabbing.
- The problem of land grabbing in the Amazon, often by speculators looking to sell to cattle ranchers and crop growers, is not new, but the situation has intensified under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro. The Greenpeace researchers say there’s little prospect of a crackdown on land grabbing under the present political scenario.
Rainforests: 11 things to watch in 2021
- 2020 was a rough year for tropical rainforest conservation efforts. So what’s in store for 2021?
- Mongabay Founder Rhett A. Butler reviews some of 11 key things to watch in the world of rainforests in 2021.
- These include: the post COVID recovery; the transition of power in the U.S.; deforestation in Indonesia; deforestation in Brazil; the effects of the La Niña climate pattern; ongoing destabilization of tropical forests; government to government carbon deals; data that will allow better assessment of the impact of COVID on tropical forests; companies incorporating forest-risk into decision-making; ongoing violence against environmental defenders; and whether international policy meetings can get back on track.
How the pandemic impacted rainforests in 2020: a year in review
- 2020 was supposed to be a make-or-break year for tropical forests. It was the year when global leaders were scheduled to come together to assess the past decade’s progress and set the climate and biodiversity agendas for the next decade. These included emissions reductions targets, government procurement policies and corporate zero-deforestation commitments, and goals to set aside protected areas and restore degraded lands.
- COVID-19 upended everything: Nowhere — not even tropical rainforests — escaped the effects of the global pandemic. Conservation was particularly hard in tropical countries.
- 2019’s worst trends for forests mostly continued through the pandemic including widespread forest fires, rising commodity prices, increasing repression and violence against environmental defenders, and new laws and policies in Brazil and Indonesia that undermine forest conservation.
- We don’t yet have numbers on the degree to which the pandemic affected deforestation, because it generally takes several months to process that data. That being said, there are reasons to suspect that 2020’s forest loss will again be substantial.
Weak policy oversight could be pushing Brazilian forests closer to a tipping point
- Between 2019 and 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit a 12-year high.
- Deforestation, coupled with climate change and fires, are pushing the Amazon ever closer to a rainforest-to-degraded savanna tipping point, say some scientists.
- On a broad spectrum, deforestation is putting Brazil’s energy production, food security, and economy as a whole at risk.
- Women and Indigenous people are essential actors in the discussion and implementation of sustainable development in Brazil, but remain underrepresented at policy- and decision-making levels.
‘Devastating’ fires engulf Brazilian Pantanal wetlands – again
- Wildfires erupting in August have ravaged much of Brazil’s Pantanal Matogrossense National Park, which is a part of the Pantanal region, the world’s largest tropical wetland.
- Fires have so far consumed nearly 4.5 million hectares across the Pantanal, totaling about 30% of the biome and nearly 22 times the area lost between 2000 and 2018.
- This year’s intense fires added to damage already done in 2019, when flames engulfed hundreds of thousands of hectares across the Pantanal.
- Sources say most of the fires started from slash-and-burn farming, which is becoming more prevalent due to the weakening of environmental agencies under the Bolsonaro administration.
Traditional and Indigenous peoples ‘denounce’ planned Amazon railway
- The Ferrovia Paraense (FEPASA) railway if fully completed would run 1,312 kilometers (815 miles) from Santana do Araguaia in southern Pará, along the state’s eastern border, to the port city of Barcarena on the Amazon River. It could carry 80 million tons of mining ores and agribusiness commodities annually.
- In 2019, Pará state signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Communication Construction Company for a R$7 billion (US$1.4 billion) investment to fund the building of 492 kilometers (305 miles) of the railway, from Marabá to Barcarena. Construction is currently expected to start in 2021.
- But that plan could be delayed by resistance from Indigenous and traditional communities who say they’ve yet to be consulted on the project, as required by international law. FEPASA and Ferrogrão (Grainrail) will integrate Pará into Brazil’s vast rail network, greatly aiding export of Amazon commodities to China.
- A letter from the Amazon communities to Pará’s government accused it and its allies of “forcing on us a development model that does not represent us, that is imposing railways,… expelling people from their lands, ending our food security, destroying our people, destroying our cultures,… and killing our forests.”
Soy moratorium averted New Jersey-size loss of Amazon rainforest: Study
- A new study sought to quantify the impact of the Amazon soy moratorium, signed in 2006 by companies accounting for around 90% of the soy sourced from the Brazilian Amazon.
- The companies agreed that they would not purchase soy grown on plots that were recently deforested.
- The research demonstrates that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2006 and 2016 was 35% lower than it would have been without the moratorium, likely keeping 18,000 square kilometers (6,950 square miles) of the Amazon standing.
- Despite the success, observers question whether the ban on soy from deforested areas of the Amazon will prevent the loss of rainforest over the long term.
Ribeirinhos win right to waterside Amazon homeland lost to Belo Monte dam
- Some 40,000 people — mostly peasant farmers, fisherfolk, traditional families (living from the collection of forest products), Indigenous people, and ribeirinhos — were evicted to make way for the Belo Monte dam, constructed between June 2011 and November 2019.
- The ribeirinhos (traditional riverine people) were not politically well organized at the time, and along with many others, were forced out of their traditional riverside homes and livelihoods. Most moved into urban housing developments away from the Xingu River, where they were forced to pay rent and acclimate themselves to urban life.
- But over the years the ribeirinhos gained political savvy. Negotiating with Norte Energia, the consortium that built and runs Belo Monte, they gained the right to establish a collectively owned Ribeirinho Territory beside the Belo Monte reservoir.
- Under the agreement, 315 families are each to be provided with 14 hectares (34 acres) for individual use. Added to that are areas for collective use and a forest reserve — a combined total of 20,341 hectares (50,263 acres). However, with the deal now seemingly sealed, Norte Energia has backpedaled, wanting to propose a different agreement.
Historical analysis: The Amazon’s mineral wealth — curse or blessing?
- Mining of gold and other precious metals in the Amazon fueled the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires, while bringing misery and death to unknown hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people and African slaves, forced to work the mines.
- Modern industrial mining came to the Brazilian Amazon in the late 1940s as transnational firms began digging up and processing manganese, iron, bauxite, zinc, and other ores. Like the earlier iterations of mining, transnational firms, investors, and nations profited hugely, while local people saw little benefit.
- Brazil offered massive subsidies and tax incentives to attract transnational mining companies, and built giant public works projects, including mega-dams, transmission lines, and roads to provide energy and other services to the mines. Though the government offered little to disrupted traditional communities.
- All this came with extraordinary socio-environmental costs, as Brazilian Amazon deforestation soared, land and waterways were polluted, and Indigenous and riverine peoples were deprived of their traditional ways of life and lands, and suffered major public health repercussions. This mining trend continues today.
Brazilian woman threatened by Amazon loggers wins global human rights award
- Rural community leader Osvalinda Alves Pereira is the first Brazilian to receive the Edelstam Prize, a Swedish award given to human rights defenders. She was honored this November for her brave stand against illegal loggers and for her defense of the Amazon agrarian reform community of Areia in Pará state.
- Illegal loggers there have repeatedly threatened Osvalinda and her husband with violence, forcing them out of their community and into urban safe houses. Now the couple has returned to their rural home; threats to Osvalinda and her community have resumed since she received the Edelstam Prize.
- Illegal deforestation, especially the illegal export of rare and valuable Amazon woods, has been strongly aided by the deregulatory policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, according to critics, who also say that the president’s incendiary rhetoric is emboldening illegal loggers and others to violence.
- Still threatened by logging militias in Amazonia, Osvalinda received the award just a week after President Bolsonaro in a speech tried to shift responsibility for the policing of Amazon illegal deforestation away from Brazil and onto its foreign trading partners who are importing timber from the South American nation.
Belo Monte dam’s water demands imperil Amazon communities, environment
- Norte Energia, the builder and operator of the controversial Belo Monte mega-dam is pushing for implementation of a much disputed “consensus hydrogram” — a plan to annually manipulate water releases into the Xingu River’s Volta Grande (Big Bend), with estimated peak April releases ranging from a mere 4,000 – 8,000 m3/s.
- Noting that April average historical river flows in the Volta Grande before the dam was built were 19,985 m3/s, analysts say this dearth of water flow will prevent and imperil annual fish reproduction. One Volta Grande expert estimates that, using the so-called consensus hydrogram plan, at least 80% of Volta Grande fish will die.
- Documents from IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, which first came to light publicly on December 3, acknowledge “grave and irreparable impacts” from the Belo Monte dam, and signal an urgent need to revise Norte Energia’s planned consensus hydrogram.
- Two recent studies say fish are decreasing dramatically in diets within Belo Monte’s influence area, causing food insecurity. Norte Energia claims fish quantities sold locally remain the same, but their data may mask significantly increased fishing effort, and the need to fish more widely, beyond previous fishing areas.
Lasers reveal steep decline in ecosystem function of degraded Amazon forests
- Large portions of the Amazon rainforest are degraded by human activities, such as patchy smallholder farming, timber extraction, and burning.
- Airborne laser scans paired with an ecological model show that these areas store less carbon, carry less water, and are much more fire-prone.
- During periods of extreme drought, intact forests also run out of water and become as hot as degraded forests, stressing the entire ecosystem
Tropical forests can take the heat, study finds. Dryness? Not so much
- Researchers simulated extreme global warming conditions for tropical forests in the Biosphere 2 dome in the Arizona desert, cranking up the temperature to 40°C (104°F).
- To gauge the trees’ resilience, they looked at how well they continued to photosynthesize, and found that they could do so up to 38°C (100°F), which is 10°C (18°F) warmer than the average temperature in tropical forests today.
- However, the enclosed dome helped maintain humidity levels, whereas real-world warming would lead to drier air, and therefore greater loss of water from plants through transpiration.
- The researchers say the study nevertheless provides relevant information on the main threats to these ecosystems: the combination of a warmer world and a drier climate.
Brazil beef giants linked to illegal Amazon deforestation
- Brazil’s biggest beef companies have been directly linked to more than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of illegal deforestation in the Amazon state of Pará.
- According to an investigation by Global Witness, JBS, Marfrig and Minerva bought cattle from a combined total of 379 ranches between 2017 and 2019 where illegal deforestation had taken place.
- The firms also failed to monitor 4,000 ranches in their supply chains that were connected to large areas of deforestation in the state, investigators found.
- Brazil has the second-largest cattle herd in the world, which is the leading driver of deforestation emissions in Latin America.
Brazilians impacted by mining assert: ‘Genocide legalized by the state’
- Residents of traditional communities in the Brazilian Amazon municipality of Barcarena, near the mouth of the Amazon River, say that their subsistence and commercial livelihoods, and their health, have been destroyed by an invasion of mining companies which began in the mid-1980’s.
- Among the gigantic companies moving into the region were Brazil’s Vale, Norwegian-Japanese Albrás, Norway’s Norsk Hydro, and France’s Imerys Rio Capim Caulim. Community complaints say that the firms allegedly stole community land and polluted land, water and air.
- Meanwhile, according to residents, the government rewarded the companies with subsidies, looked the other way when community lands were appropriated and pollution occurred, and paid for mining firm infrastructure, including the Tucurui mega-dam; port of Vila do Conde, and a network of new roads.
- Also, a string of mining disasters punctuated the years, with the worst by Norsk Hydro in 2018 at the Hydro Alunorte facility. Though local waters, blood and hair have proven to be contaminated with mining-related toxins, the companies defend themselves by saying no particular firm can be pinpointed with the harm.
As Amazon deforestation hits 12 year high, France rejects Brazilian soy
- As Brazil continues deforesting and burning the Amazon at an alarming rate, France has announced plans to drastically reduce its dependency on Brazilian soy flour and “stop importing deforestation.”
- France currently is the EU’s largest importer of Brazilian soy flour, buying 1.9 million tons annually. “Our target today is [cutting] soybean imports coming from the American continent,” said the French Minister of Agriculture and Food this week.
- While the loss of its soy sales to France is of concern to Brazilian soy producers and commodities companies, agribusiness has expressed greater anxiety over whether Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s continued anti-environmental rhetoric and policies will provoke a largescale international boycott of Brazilian commodities.
- They especially fear the president’s hardline could risk ratification of the Mercosur trade agreement between the EU and South American nations, including Brazil. This week the EU ambassador to Brazil said that the agreement is now in standby, awaiting the country’s concrete actions to combat deforestation and Amazon fires.
Planned road to bisect pristine, biodiverse Brazilian Amazon national park
- The BR-364 highway stretches for 4,325 kilometers across Brazil, ending in Acre state. Now authorities, backed by Acre’s state government and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, want to extend it with a 152-kilometer branch road through Serra do Divisor National Park, near demarcated Indigenous reserves, and to the Peru border.
- Meanwhile, the Brazilian Congress is moving a bill forward to fast track the branch road’s approval by degrading the conservation status of the national park and reclassifying it as an APA, an Área de Proteção Ambiental, which would allow timber harvesting, ranching, agriculture and mining.
- Environmentalists and Indigenous communities warn that the planned road and the reduction in protections for Serra do Divisor National Park would open up the conservation unit and a pristine portion of the Brazilian Amazon, providing access to loggers, cattle ranchers and landgrabbers.
- Though the road is still not approved, local sources say as much as 30 kilometers of forest along the route have already been cleared to the park’s border. “With each day, each year that passes, the deforestation advances further. The destruction of humans is relentless… And for us, it’s really difficult to witness,” said one Indigenous leader.
Unprecedented sightings of maned wolves in Amazon herald a changing landscape
- The maned wolf has been spotted 22 times in the Amazon over the past 25 years, 10 of those times in areas where it had never been seen before.
- Scientists posit that South America’s largest canine is spreading north as human-driven deforestation and climate change eat away at the fringes of the Amazon, turning the rainforest into the dry shrubland that the maned wolf is accustomed to.
- In its traditional range across the Cerrado savanna, the maned wolf is being squeezed into increasingly fragmented spaces and pushed into human areas.
- This puts it at risk of being hit by vehicles, catching disease from domestic pets, and being killed by farmers.