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30 July 2021

How badly have deforestation and development hit the Amazon rainforest?

Thousands of square miles of rainforest have been destroyed for the purposes of city expansion or to the benefit of the logging industry.

By Ben Walker

Decades of deforestation, wildfires and political wrangling for either corporate or electoral gain have taken their toll on the Amazon rainforest, and international researchers claim parts of it now emit more carbon than they absorb.

Data from the University of Maryland, which employs satellite imagery, enables us to discern where deforestation and tree loss have been most pronounced within the Amazon biome.

Tree clearing has taken its toll on the Amazon rainforest
Areas of significant tree loss within the Amazon biome between 2000 and 2020
"Change from a forest to non-forest state during the period 2000-2020". Published by Hansen, Potapov, Moore et al of the University of Maryland

In 2020, Brazil’s space agency reported that deforestation had surged to its highest rate since 2008, with thousands of miles of rainforest destroyed for city expansion or the logging industry. 

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, can be held responsible for the increasing rates of deforestation. In his election campaign in 2018 he promised to reverse environmental protection schemes to encourage development in the region. 

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