Deforestation in Atlantic forest down 59% Jan–Aug year on year

Its enclaves within other biomes, however, showed rising rates

Published on 29/11/2023 - 11:53 By Camila Boehm - São Paulo

Deforestation in the Atlantic Forest fell by 59 percent from January to August this year compared to the same period in 2022, as per a new report by SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation, Arcplan, and MapBiomas.

The results indicate that the deforested area in the period totaled 9,216 hectares, compared to 22,240 hectares recorded in the same span last year.

The survey, SOS Mata Atlântica stated, reinforces the sharp downward trend in the biome’s deforestation observed since the beginning of the year. The previous bulletin, released in July, showed that the reduction stood at 42 percent by May, when the deforested area amounted to 7,088 hectares, against the 12,166 in the same interval last year.

“In the last few years of Bolsonaro’s administration, deforestation expanded. Now we have a trend reversal, because deforestation in the biome was on the rise, and now, with these partial data, it has sunk to 59 percent. That’s a significant reduction, a surprising number, really good,” said SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation Executive Director Luís Fernando Guedes Pinto.

The highest-ranking states for deforestation, he pointed out, like Paraná and Santa Catarina, saw a significant drop of around 60 percent. Among the factors that help explain it are the increase in inspections and embargoes, as well as the fact that producers are denied credit over deforestation.

“This change really stems from efforts to strengthen environmental policy and enforcement, an attempt to bring an end to expected impunity. Under the previous government, we were all but invited to deforest,” he said.

The figures are based on the biome boundaries set by the statistics bureau IBGE, not considering deforestation in fragments of Atlantic forest within the cerrado and the caatinga. The enclaves in these two biomes make up some five percent of the country’s total Atlantic forest. Contrary to the shrinkage in deforestation within the limits stipulated, the forest enclaves are regions that showed a rise in deforestation.

Enclaves

From January to May 2023, deforestation in the cerrado and the caatinga enclaves grew by 13 and 123 percent respectively. In Pinto’s view, this requires strong government action.

When all the deforested areas of the Atlantic forest are combined—including within IBGE boundaries between January and August and the enclaves from January to May—the drop in deforestation was no higher than 26 percent. The percentage was pulled down by the surge in deforestation in the enclaves.

“We’re worried about the transition linking the Atlantic forest, the cerrado, and the caatinga. We still have a problem there. We know that deforestation in the cerrado is on the rise,” Guedes Pinto went on to note.

Despite the change in the trend this year, he believes any deforestation in the Atlantic forest is bad, and expects it to drop to zero. To combat deforestation in the enclaves, Pinto called for the strict enforcement of the Atlantic Forest Law locally.

There is still a legal dispute between producers and landowners about the scope of the law in enclave areas, he said. “[The Atlantic Forest Law] is clear. There’s a map with these enclaves, and it’s clear that all the forest formations within this map are protected by the Atlantic Forest Law. There’s no doubt about that.”

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nádia Franco

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