In a bit of news worthy of singing from the treetops, satellite data from space research agency INPE shows that the rate of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has dropped dramatically.
The BBC further reports that a similar fall was also noted for July, and the decrease is especially exciting as August is historically a time when deforestation peaks. To date for 2023, INPE’s figures showed deforestation has fallen 48% from the same period of 2022, per reporting by Reuters.
The Amazon covers 2.7 million acres and is a vital carbon sink — something that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases — for toxic planet-warming pollution. The WWF also says the vast forest is home to about one in 10 species on Earth and 20% of the world’s fresh water.
Deforestation and rising global temperatures are diminishing the forest and its ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Reuters reports that deforestation further causes loss of habitats and species, increases fires, negatively affects indigenous people and their health, and leads to soil erosion, flooding, and pollution of rivers and lands, negatively altering water cycles worldwide.
The slowing of its loss is critical, and the deforestation decrease is touted as a victory for current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has made protecting the Amazon a policy priority since he took office in January and whose administration has set a goal of zero deforestation by 2030.
“These results show the determination of the Lula administration to break the cycle of abandonment and regression seen under the previous government,” said Silva, according to the BBC.
“It’s a hopeful story,” Alexandra Tyukavina, a geographer at the University of Maryland who focuses on tropical forest loss, told Grist.
“This shows the importance of governments acting on climate change,” said Erika Berenguer, a senior research associate focused on the Amazon at Oxford University. “This shows how an election can change the fate of the Amazon.”
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