Last Updated: 16 January 2017 - 04:12
News ID: 3682
Publish Date: 02 December 2016 - 03:05
A sad record in 2016: the Amazon rainforest has suffered the largest reported forest loss since 2008.
Zistboom: A sad record in 2016: the Amazon rainforest has suffered the largest reported forest loss since 2008. Environmentalists are very concerned about impacts on biodiversity and climate protection.
The rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has increased again in 2016, for the fourth consecutive year - loss of rainforest this year has been the greatest since 2008. This according to new data from to the Brazilian state environmental research institute INPE.
Deforestation causes loss of biodiversity and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is among the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world and at the same time, the Amazon rainforest is home to 10 percent of the world's known species.
Environmental activists are up in arms to stop the logging, but are aware that without governmental support, this is in vain.
A step backward
Although forest areas have been decreasing globally since 1990, the good news is that forest loss per year is half as much as it was then. But the latest Amazon rainforest data has cast a shadow over illusions of global reforestation.
Over the past four years, deforestation appears to be unstoppable for the world treasure. According to the Brazilian state environmental research institute INPE, the Amazon rainforest has lost nearly 8,000 square kilometers between August 2015 and July 2016 - that's more than five times the area of London.
While still on the topic of impressive numbers, the rate of Amazon deforestation in 2016 has increased 29 percent compared to 2015 - and this is the greatest reported forest loss since 2008.
A drop of good news: the current deforestation level still represents a reduction of 71 percent compared to 2004.
What's behind the peaks
In 2012, the rate of Amazon deforestation reached its lowest level since the 1990s - but since then, it's started to increase again.
Roberto Maldonado, South America officer of WWF Germany, explained to DW that the main reason behind the increase of almost 30 percent traces back mainly to a lack of governmental will to fight illegal logging.
By 2005, Brazil managed to strongly reduced deforestation, which had peaked the previous year. At that time, the Brazilian government created a highly successful program to reduce deforestation.
"It showed the whole world that it is possible to decrease deforestation substantially," Maldonado said.
However, around 2010, agricultural and industrial lobbies requested reform of the Brazilian forest code in favor of their interests, Maldonado explained.
"Since the new code was enforced in 2012, the deforestation rate has doubled again," he stated.
Maldonado believes these political events are clearly linked to the deforestation rates. The revised forest code is still in place to this day.
"We cannot say with certitude, but there are indications showing the trend will continue, considering the political and economical situation of the country," he said.
Moreover, he highlighted how natural events related to climate change can also contribute to increasing deforestation. "Drought, for instance, makes it easier to open forests [to logging]."
Climate and biodiversity suffer
Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of Brazil's greenhouse gas watchdog, said that the present increase in annual deforestation represents 130 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions - about twice the yearly emissions of Portugal.
Indeed, one of the most alarming consequences of deforestation is increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in locking carbon from the atmosphere into trees, preventing global warming.
"Brazil is unfortunately one of the main greenhouse gas emitters worldwide - and this is due not to industry or transport, rather to deforestation," Maldonado said.
Biodiversity is also on the chopping block. Deforestation might drive some species extinct - due mainly to habitat loss, but also due to habitat fragmentation.
Who is responsible?
"The main responsibility lays in the Brazilian government and the company lobbies," Maldonado said.
He added however, that we all have a responsibility to change our consumption behavior, which also has long-term impact.
The quantity of meat consumed by a single average German citizen, for instance, contributes to the deforestation of around 300 square meters of Cerrado plantation in Brazil - since tropical savanna is cleared to grow crops for animal feed. 
"We can all contribute to a zero-deforestation future by changing our consumption patterns," he concluded.
source: DW


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