The Amazon Rainforest saw a 29 percent jump in deforestation last year, spelling bad news for one of the world’s most important forests and the future of humanity. According to the Guardian, final figures released by the Brazilian government earlier this week show satellite data indicating about 2,275 square miles of forest were cleared in a 12-month period ending in July, 2013. This news doesn’t bode well for global warming either, as the Amazon is a major carbon sink that absorbs more than 16.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year – or about a quarter of annual American emissions. And let’s not forget the massive amount of biodiversity in the Amazon that includes socres of species that have not yet been studied.
This news gets even worse when you consider that last year’s 29 percent jump in deforestation represents a backslide in progress that has seen deforestation decline every year since 2009, according to data from Brazil’s space research center, INPE. Where is it happening and why? The two states with the biggest decline are Para and Mato Grosso, where the majority of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is happening. Along with agricultural expansion, illegal logging and invasion of public lands near major infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams and road building are major contributors.
To end on a positive note, according to the Guardian, the cleared area is nonetheless the second-lowest annual figure since the Brazilian government began tracking deforestation in 2004 – when more than 11,500 square miles were removed.