Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rises for second straight month

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Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rises for second straight month

REUTERS

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose 43% in April from the same month a year ago, the second consecutive monthly rise as destruction picks up ahead of the annual burning season, preliminary government data showed on Friday.

In the first four months of 2021, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon totaled 1,157 square kilometers, an area nearly the size of Los Angeles and down 4% from a year earlier, according to national space research agency Inpe.

Brazil is under intense international pressure led by the United States to rein in destruction of the world's largest tropical rainforest, which plays a critical role in curbing catastrophic climate change because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas it absorbs.

At a leaders summit last month organized by the United States, President Jair Bolsonaro committed to increase funding for environmental enforcement and to end deforestation by 2030.

But U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, which is in talks to possibly fund Brazilian conservation efforts, says it expects immediate action to reduce deforestation this year.

 

Illegal logging and forest fires have soared since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, with deforestation hitting a 12-year high in 2020, government data shows.

"Biden doesn't want to be in a position where it looks like he is being too soft on Brazil when it comes to the environment," said Anya Prusa, a senior associate for the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.

The overall trend in deforestation matters more than a single month, Prusa added.

"If deforestation goes back up, if we see again significant forest fires in the Amazon in August and September this year, it will make it harder for the U.S. to continue talking to Brazil."

Bolsonaro's press representatives referred questions to the vice president's office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Early months of the year, when intense rains prevent loggers from easily working in the forest, have limited impact on the Amazon's overall annual deforestation rates, as destruction peaks in the drier season from May to October.

Deforestation in the month of July 2020 alone was higher than the four months of January to April combined this year.

Immense clouds during the rainy season also hide fresh deforestation from government satellites. Cloud cover in the region ranged from 26% to 48% in the first four months of the year, far higher than the 17% to 32% seen in the same period of 2020.

Any deforestation hidden early in the year is registered by satellites in subsequent months when the clouds clear.

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