City-Size Tract of Amazon Forest Cleared in April

Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
for National Geographic News
June 10, 2008

In just a month, an area nearly the size of New York City was cleared in the Amazon rain forest—an "alarming" and "worse-than-imagined" development, the Brazilian government said in a statement.

At least 433 square miles (1,123 square kilometers) were deforested in Brazil in April 2008.

That's eight times more than the 55 square miles (145 square kilometers) destroyed the month before, according to data released last week by the Brazilian National Space Research Institute (INPE), which monitors the Amazon.

The results suggest that the deforestation rate has accelerated, INPE said.

Between August 2006 and August 2007, 1,920 square miles (4,974 square kilometers) were destroyed. From August 2007 to April 2008, this rate climbed to 2,250 square miles (5,850 square kilometers).

"The situation is very alarming. With the data we have, we can be sure that there is a clear increase in deforestation in the Amazon," said INPE's director, Gilberto Camara.

"The process of deforestation is more intense than we imagined."

(Related: "Brazil to Crack Down on Amazon Clearing" [January 25, 2008].)

Detection Systems

The numbers are based on satellite data from Deter, a system that uses low-resolution images to capture frequent snapshots of the region.

Deter, which has offered monthly reports since 2004, does not measure the total extent of deforestation, but instead indicates trends and alerts authorities as to where threats exist.

Deforestation rates are shown by another system, Prodes, which is based on high-resolution images from the dry season and detects twice as much information as Deter.

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