Data released from the “Atlas of the Atlantic Rainforest Remnants”, by the SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation in partnership with INPE (National Institute for Space Research) for 2011, show a total of 13,300 hectares of the Atlantic rainforest were deforested in Brazil.
The good news is the deforestation numbers fell in 2011 from 2010. The total amount fell 58 percent compared to the previous year, when the number was 31,190 hectares.
The SOS data concluded the majority of the deforestation of the Atlantic rainforest is taking place in the state of Minas Gerais. The majority of loss, about half of the total, came in Minas Gerais (6,339 hectares less), while the second worst state was Bahia (4,493 hectares).
The total deforestation of the Atlantic rainforest — forest vegetation, mangroves and salt marshes (vegetation undergrowth near the sea) covering 17 states across the country — is the equivalent of more than 13,000 soccer fields.
Despite the dramatic improvement from 2010, the SOS is not optimistic about the future. “Changes in legislation, such as the new Forest Code, can accelerate deforestation,” said Mario Mantovani, director of mobilization for the SOS.
Today, the Atlantic rainforest has only 7.9% of its original area. Optimistically, taking into consideration isolated remnants of the rainforest with more than three hectares, the number reaches 13.32%.
Mantovani is eager to attempt in 2012 an even more detailed study of the evolution of the vegetation after the change of the Forest Code, only partially vetoed by Dilma. “Let’s see by satellite the impact of changes in the law.”
Among the five most deforested regions, three are in Minas Gerais. They make up what analysts call the “Triangle of Deforestation” (an allusion to the Mining Triangle) and are in the northeastern area of the state. Águas Vermelhas, one of the points of the triangle, held the record, with 1,367 hectares of vegetation cut.
According to Mantovani, one of the biggest causes for deforestation in this region is charcoal production. Another problem, he said, is that the state has taken away protection of the so-called dry forest, one of the subdivisions of the Atlantic rainforest. This opens the gate to more deforestation.
The Atlas survey covered 93% of the Atlantic rainforest area (the remaining 7% could not be surveyed because of cloud cover).
[This article originally appeared in different form on Folha.com]