The Brazilian government has released some disturbing news: despite years of progress combatting deforestation, 2015 saw a 16 percent increase in the number of trees destroyed. In total, 2,251 square miles (5,830 square kilometers) of forest were lost between July 2014 and August 2015, an area about half the size of Los Angeles.
This is the second jump in the rate of deforestation in the past three years, and a troubling setback for the Amazon rainforest. Over the past ten years, Brazil has cracked down on illegal logging, so the current rate is still well below historical highs, but if the rate continues to increase, it could spell disaster for the rainforest – and the global climate.
Researchers have warned that a staggering 57 percent of the Amazon’s 15,000 tree species face extinction if the forest continues to be cleared at current rates. Even more troubling is the fact that this lost rainforest is no longer able to trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making deforestation a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.