Report Details 'Enormous, Virtually Irreversible' Loss in Amazon

Region has lost 10% of its native vegetation since 1985, an area the size of Texas, per Raisg
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 3, 2022 9:00 AM CST
Report Flashes 'Yellow Light' on Loss of Amazon Rainforest
Land recently burned and deforested by cattle farmers stands empty near Novo Progresso, in Brazil's Para state, on Aug. 16, 2020.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

The Amazon region has lost 10% of its native vegetation, mostly tropical rainforest, in almost four decades, an area roughly the size of Texas, a new report says. From 1985 to 2021, the deforested area surged from 190,000 square miles to 482,000 square miles, unprecedented destruction in the Amazon, according to the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information, or Raisg. The numbers are calculated from an annual satellite monitoring since 1985 from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana, per the AP. The report is a collaboration between Raisg and MapBiomas, a network of Brazilian nonprofits, universities, and technology startups.

"The losses have been enormous, virtually irreversible, and with no expectation of a turnaround," said a statement Friday by Raisg, a consortium of civil society organizations from the region's countries. "The data signals a yellow light and gives a sense of urgency to the need for a coordinated, decisive, and compelling international action." Brazil, which holds about two-thirds of the Amazon, also leads the destruction. In almost four decades, 19% of its rainforest has been destroyed, due mainly to cattle ranching expansion supported by the opening of roads. The country accounted for 84% of all forest destruction in the period. Almost half of Brazil's carbon emissions comes from deforestation.

The destruction is so vast that the eastern Amazon has ceased to be a carbon sink, or absorber, for the Earth and has become a carbon source, according to a study published in 2021 in the journal Nature. As of 2021, the Amazon had 74% of its area covered by tropical rainforests and 9% with other natural vegetation types. The region, with 3.3 million square miles, holds a population of 47 million people, according to Raisg estimates. "At least some 75 billion metric tons of carbon are stored across the Amazon," researcher Wayne Walker of the Woodwell Climate Research Center (formerly the Woods Hole Research Center) said during a press conference Friday in Lima, Peru. "If all that carbon ended up immediately in the atmosphere, that would be about seven times global annual emissions."

(More Amazon rainforest stories.)

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