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Deforestation of Atlantic rain forest gets worse

Forest coverage 235 km² smaller in one year

Published in 28/05/2014 - 12:38 By Flávia Albuquerque reports from Agência Brasil - São Paulo


The levels of deforestation were tracked in the ninth edition of the Atlantic Rain Forest Footprint AtlasArquivo/Agência Brasil

The Atlantic rain forest has lost 235 km² of vegetation – an area the size of 24,000 soccer fields – between 2012 and 2013. This is a 9% increase in the pace of deforestation compared to the previous study period (2011-2012).

The levels of deforestation were tracked in the ninth edition of the Atlantic Rain Forest Footprint Atlas published Tuesday (May 27) by NGO SOS Mata Atlântica in partnership with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

“The Atlantic rain forest is a national asset, and a critically endangered biome. Some of the population lives there and depends on its resources, and we need the efforts and active engagement of the society to protect these forests and ensure environmental services that benefit a significant number of Brazilians,” said Marcia Hirota, project coordinator and executive director of the SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation.

Mata Atlântica

In total, 17 Brazilian states are officially covered by the Atlantic rain forestArquivo/Agência Brasil 

The Atlantic rain forest is one of the richest biomes for biodiversity, and up to 60% of its species are endemic there. The annual rate of deforestation in the 2012-2013 period hit its highest level since 2008, when 343.1 km² of forest were reported to have been lost. Between 2008 and 2010 the average annual pace of destruction was 151.8 km². Currently, there are only 8.5% of forest areas larger than 100 acres. And only 12.5% of the original area remains, considering all patches above 3 hectares combined – when the Portuguese first came to Brazil, this area was 1.3 million km².

In total, 17 states are officially covered by the Atlantic rain forest. For the fifth consecutive year, Minas Gerais was one of the states that have most destroyed the biome, with 84.3 km² of it being lost. “We have been calling on the state government and several other sectors to see that Minas Gerais gets out of the top rank, because it's also the state with the largest area of conserved forest,” Hirota said.

The state of Piauí comes next in the deforestation ranking for the period, with 66.3 km² less of forest left. Bahia was the third most deforesting state with 47.7 km² less of vegetation.

A researcher and technical coordinator for INPE's study, Flávio Jorge Ponzoni explained that the purpose of the atlas is to make a diagnosis rather than playing any enforcement roles. “We are carrying out comprehensive mapping of the whole biome. We used to update it every five years, then every two years, and now we do it every year. This ensures greater accuracy,” he said.

Mario Mantovani, the NGO's Public Policy Officer, said that the Atlantic rain forest was included in the Constitution 26 years ago as the only regulated biome in Brazil. However, it still faces strong deforestation pressures.

According to Mantovani, there is a conflict between compliance with federal laws and increased deforestation in Minas Gerais and Piauí because these states do not recognize the Atlantic rain forest as an area for conservation. “And another point is the urban sprawl. But we have succeeded in implementing a legally backed scope of action with local conservancy programs. As local governments implement their own regulations they can identify how best to use each area,” he completed.

Translated by Mayra Borges

Fonte: Deforestation of Atlantic rain forest gets worse

Edition: Luana Lourenço / Nira Foster

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