MapBiomas report reveals that at least 1.2 million hectares of native vegetation have been lost in Brazil.
Scenes of cut and burnt forests reverberated around the world last year and served as a warning to the extent of environmental devastation in Brazil. Together, Amazônia and Cerrado concentrated 96.7% of the deforested areas across the national territory in 2019. This is shown by the first Annual Report on Deforestation in Brazil, prepared by MapBiomas, released on Tuesday (05/26).

According to the report, only  the Amazon saw 770,148 hectares of forest disappear from January to December 2019, which corresponds to 63.2% of the deforestation recorded across the country. The Cerrado, a biome that has already been greatly impacted by the advance of agribusiness in the Midwest, lost 408,646 hectares of native vegetation in the same period, or 33.5% of the total.

From the analysis of 56,867 deforestation alerts in the six Brazilian biomes, the loss of 1,218,708 hectares of natural forest cover was detected. In other words, in just one year, Brazil saw the disappearance of the equivalent of eight cities in São Paulo or an entire Manaus, the largest capital of the Amazon in territorial extension and in number of inhabitants.

Per day, 130 deforestation alerts were issued to the Amazon and 2,100 hectares of forest were destroyed – an advance of 87.92 hectares per hour. The average speed of deforestation in the region was 0.17. The greatest speed, however, occurred in the Cerrado: 0.99. Each day the biome saw 1,119.6 hectares of native vegetation, or 46.65 per hour, subtracted.  The third highest average speed was detected in the Pantanal: 0.87; 45.3 hectares destroyed per day.

The 27 federation units registered deforestation alerts in 2019. Pará, Acre, Amazonas, Rondônia and Mato Grosso were responsible for 78.8% of deforestation alerts, together accounting for 66% of the lost forest area. Alone, Pará accumulated almost a third (32.6%) of the country’s total deforestation last year.

Of the municipalities with the highest forest cover loss rates, ten are in the Legal Amazon, the leaders of which are the well-known Altamira (PA), São Félix do Xingu (PA), Porto Velho (RO), Lábrea (AM) and Apuí ( AM).  The last two are in the south of Amazonas, one of the regions where the greatest cases of deforestation on public lands occur, including conservation units and indigenous lands.

Despite being legally protected, they were not destroyed during 2019. Brazil has 1,453 Conservation Units (UCs). Of these, according to MapBiomas, 226 (16%) had suppression of native coverage. Most, as expected, in the Amazon, with 13% deforestation in or around UCs.

The Extractive Reserve Chico Mendes, in Acre, presented the highest number of alerts in 2019: 1,197. Under pressure from agribusiness, the UC suffers a series of offensives by local political leaders, such as the presentation of the bill (PL 6024/19) that foresees the reduction of its size. In the deforested area, the main unit affected was the EPA of Triunfo do Xingu, in Pará, with 30,360 hectares felled.

Next is the APA of Rio Preto, in Bahia, with 13,449 hectares, and the National Forest of Jamanxim (PA), with 10,099 hectares. Despite being the least affected areas, indigenous lands (TIs) were not preserved in the first year of Jair Bolsonaro in the Presidency of the Republic. The traditional territories of indigenous peoples accounted for 3.6% of the total deforested across the country.           

These deforestation in protected areas shows the level of illegality of the practice in Brazil, which can only occur with authorization from the environmental agencies of the States or the Union.  In the analysis of MapBiomas, “it is possible to affirm that more than 99% of the deforestation alerts detected in 2019, after overlapping with the official databases, presented irregularities that include from the location in protected areas or with legal restriction to the absence of authorization to suppress vegetation ”. In other words, they were illegal. 

WHAT IS MAPBIOMAS

MapBiomas is a multi-institutional initiative involving universities, NGOs and technology companies, focused on monitoring changes in land cover and use in the country.