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    The Changing Face of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

    By Keith R | September 11, 2007

    Topics: Biodiversity, Conservation, Environmental Governance, Environmental Protection, Sustainable Forestry | No Comments »

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)

    With much fanfare a collection of Brazil’s Ministers — Environment (MMA), Agrarian Development (MDA), Agriculture (MAPA) — and the chief of President Lula’s Civil Cabinet held a joint press conference a few weeks ago to announce the latest deforestation data and projections for the Brazilian Amazon (“Amazônia Legal” as Brazil calls it, comprises 9 states – Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rodônia, Roraima and Tocantins).

    By now you’ve doubtless seen the headlines, since they hit the world press and blogosphere in force: deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was down 25.3% last year, from 18,793 square kilometers (km2) in 2005 to 14,039 km2 in 2006. Officials also projected an even greater drop (as much as 10% greater) over the next 12 months.

    Depending on which source you read from, the report most likely stopped exploring the hard facts there and proceeded with Brazilian officials claiming that the drop is mostly due to satellite monitoring and tougher enforcement, followed by NGO spokesmen or some outside “expert” delivering the now-standard rejoinder that the drop is due more to the price of soybeans.

    Well, if a surface understanding of the recent trends is enough for you, stop reading here and go back to those news wires and blogs. This is The Temas Blog — we aim for a bit more depth than that.

    Deforestation The Big Picture

    The multi-colored graphic at right (click to enlarge) is the Amazon Environmental Research Institute’s (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da AmazôniaIPAM) depiction of the “hot spots” — areas of major deforestation for 2006 in the Brazilian Amazon. The yellow blotches indicate the “hot spots,” with coloration within toward orange then red indicating greater deforestation.

    As you can see, the deforestation movement is not truly uniformly spread along a single frontier as some imagine it to be.

    Evolution of Deforesation in Brazilian Amazon, 2005-6 (click to enlarge)This second graphic (click to enlarge) breaks down deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by zones representing the differing rates of deforestation in the 2005-6 period. The areas indicated in blue are those who maintained high rate ranges (in 25% blocs) during the period, with darkest indicating greater than 75%, the lightest blue marking under 25%.

    The yellow zone indicates an increase in deforestation of up to 25%. The red zone indicates an increase of 26-50%. It is worth noting that both zones are within the territory of Pará (PA) state.

    There has been an interesting shift in recent years in the scale of deforestation “hot spots.” Whereas in the year 2000 38% of all deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in plots of over 300 hectares, by 2006 this was down to just 13% of the total. Meanwhile in the same period the share of total deforestation of small (10-25 hect.) and smaller plots (under 10 hect.) doubled, to 25% and 10%, respectively. One possible interpretation: more and more of the new deforestation is being undertaken by the little guys.

    Deforestation in Federal Public Forests in the Brazilian Amazon, 2006 (click to enlarge)Federal Jurisdiction: Federal Public Forests

    38% of the forested territory in “Amazônia Legal” officially is “federal public forest” (FPF) land overseen by the Brazilian Forestry Service (SFB), which reports to the Environment Ministry (MMA). In 2006, one-third of the total deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in FPF land. Clearly, MMA and SFB have a lot of work to do in their own sphere of influence.

    SFB notes that among FPF lands, deforestation in 2006 in “un-designated forest” was double that of designated forest. The latter means that it is public land that has been earmarked for a specific use by society or “users of public goods or services” linked to that land (such as timber rights). The SFB wonders aloud whether this means it should designate more FPF lands, noting that illegal logging in un-designated FPFs is probably costing the federal treasury around R$ 1 billion in lost revenue.

    Where are FPF lands most in peril? Not surprisingly, PA, which accounts for two-thirds of the deforestation on FPF lands. Sadly, this is not the last time PA will be mentioned in this analysis as a major locus of deforestation.

    Total Deforestation in Indigenous Lands in Brazilian Amazon (click to enlarge)Federal Jurisdiction: Indigenous Zones

    Discussions about deforestation in South America often focus on charges that reserves created to protect indigenous peoples are being raided, deforested and exploited (for timber, agriculture or mining) because of poor vigilance and enforcement in such zones.

    10 Most Deforested Indigenous Reserves in Brazilian Amazon (click to enlarge)While that may still be a major problem in other South American nations, it peaked in Brazil in 2001 and had been whittled down to 10% its former rate in 2006 (click on bar graph at right to enlarge). It does still occur, however, in area terms about as much as the area deforested by “sustainable production” in federal conservation units (UCs) but only a quarter as much as the state “sustainable production” UCs (see discussions below).

    The map at right (click to enlarge) created by the national environmental enforcement body, IBAMA, notes the top 10 indigenous reserves experiencing deforestation in 2006 — thus likely enforcement priorities for IBAMA and the federal body in charge of indigenous policy, FUNAI, and for the new digital monitoring network.

    Evolution of Deforestation in Federal UCs (click to enlarge)Federal Jurisdiction: Conservation Units (UCs)

    In the past, there has been significant deforestation in federal protected areas known as conservation units (UCs), which together represent double the area protected by state UCs. In 2006 the feds clamped down on deforestation within their UCs, halving deforestation (click on table at right for larger view). As a result, deforestation within federal UCs in 2006 only constituted just over 1% of the total.

    Within the federal UCs, some 2/3 of deforestation occurs within zones designated for “sustainable use” (some pre-approved commercial activity subject to environmental restrictions). Clearly federal authorities need to focus much of their enforcement efforts within the federal UCs on such zones.

    Deforestation in Mato Grosso, Aug. 2007 (click to enlarge)The Results by State

    Since 2000 the state about which most people discussing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon focus has been Mato Grosso (MT), but in 2006 the state leading in deforestation in volume terms was actually PA, with 5,005 km² lost in 2006 — but even that was down 4.48% from 2005. That said, it should be noted that while MT’s volume deforested in 2006 dropped below that of PA, the former’s deforestation rate was still at about 39%. In other words, MT continues its deforestation pace, but it’s simply running out of covered territory to denude.

    In 2006, all but two of the Amazonian states (click on table at right to view larger version) saw a fall in their deforestation rates: Roraima (RR) saw an alarming 73.68% rise, and Amazonas (AM) registered a 3.72% rise. AM’s government is hoping its new climate change/forest conservations laws will reverse the trend for that state, while the feds are pressuring RR to take serious steps to check its deforestation.

    Deforested Area (km2) by State & year (click to enlarge)Deforestation Trends in Brazilian Amazon by State (click to enlarge)Three states — MT, PA and Rondônia (RO) — together account for about 85% by area of the deforestation detected in the Brazilian Amazon in 2006. These three have also accounted for the bulk of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in the previous five years.

    The two tables at right (click to see enlarged versions) cover deforestation within state UCs — the first for those designated for “integrated protection” (in essence, full conservation, no commercial use), the second those designated for “sustainable use.” As you can see in the “integrated protection” table, all but RO have gotten a handle on deforestation within such UCs in recent years.

    Evolution of Deforestation in State UCs Designated for Sustainable Use (click to enlarge)Evolution of Deforestation in State UCs of Integrated Protection (click to enlarge)It’s a different story regarding “sustainable use”: while they have reduced deforestation in such state UCs over past years, both PA and RO still have large deforestation (368 km2 and 346 km2, respectively) underway in such zones, and together they account for 98% of deforestation in sustainable use state UCs.

    It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that someone needs to lean on the state governments of PA and RO to either substantially step up their supervision and enforcement of “sustainable use” UCs or else re-designate them as “integrated protection” UCs.

    The Rest of the Picture

    If you add the area deforested in FPFs, federal UCs, in state UCs, and in indigenous lands, you still only account for about half of 2006 deforestation in the whole Brazilian Amazon. [In MT, together they account for as little as 13% of deforestation within state borders.] Where does the rest of it occur?

    One source are municipalities, both those existing for some time as they expand or further urbanize, and new ones being created, often with the help of the federal government’s National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma AgráriaINCRA). In fact, INCRA was recently accused by NGOs of facilitating deforestation [more on this in a future post.]

    During 2006 authorities targeted their enforcement efforts on a list of 20 municipalities (most in MT, PA and RO) that had the most deforestation in the previous year. As a result, deforestation among these dropped an average of 60% in 2006 (reflecting a range of just -24% in Pacajá, PA to -89% in Aripuanã, MT). That said, even among the targeted municipalities there are still some with huge deforestation in 2006 in area terms, such as São Félix do Xingu, PA with 764 km2 deforested in 2006, or Porto Velho, the capital of RO, with 382 km2 deforested in 2006. Meanwhile, new municipalities joined the bad 20, with deforestation doubling in 2006 in Novo Repartimento, PA (to 446 km2) and Marabá, PA (to 258 km2), and tenfold in Itupiranga, PA (to 237 km2). [Did you notice how many of these major offenders are located in PA?]

    That said, there does appear to be an interesting “decentralization effect” resulting from the enforcement efforts in the municipalities of the Brazilian Amazon. Simply put, deforestation is occurring in smaller amounts but in more municipalities. To achieve 10,250 km2 of deforestation it only took 30 municipalities in 2005; in 2006, it took 309.

    The overlap between crop cultivation & deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2006 (click to enlarge)Deforestation overlap with cattle ranching in Brazilian Amazon, 2006 (click to enlarge)The other culprits? You guessed it — farming and cattle ranching. An analysis by IBAMA of the deforestation hot spots of 2006 and the top crop cultivation and livestock raising (“pecuária” — primarily, but not exclusively, cattle ranching in this context) locales during 2006 showed a 13% and 37% overlap, respectively. [Click on maps at right to view the overlaps.]

    Is Soya Really the Main Villain These Days?

    Soya Price vs. Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon (click to enlarge)These days it has become de rigeur among NGOs and the blogosphere to claim that the fall in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is probably more due to changes in the world price of soybeans than from the government’s enforcement efforts. Soya prices have slumped since 2004, so they conclude that there is less clearing forest for raising the soja crop. They also point to a map like the one above on the overlap between crop cultivation and deforestation, and a chart (click on the one at right to enlarge) which suggested that deforestation rates track soya prices, as their proofs.

    But after going through the data in preparation for this report, I’m not so sure. For MT, probably so. But for the rest of Amazonia? Truth is, outside of MT, the dramatic increases in soya cultivation areas were not in Amazonia, but rather in states like Goiás (GO), Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), Paraná (PR) and Rio Grande do Sul (RS). Furthermore, government stats show that while soybean production in Brazil has risen since the 2004 price fall, the area devoted to its cultivation actually has dropped, and in dimensions that are only a fraction of reduced deforestation. In other words, the relationship between soya price drops and deforestation reduction may not be as clear-cut as most want to believe.

    My guess is that part of the answer lies in that map above about livestock raising vs. deforestation, which shows substantial overlap. Beef prices, while also falling since 2004, have only fallen 18% (vs. -48% for soya) during the same period.

    The research institute Imazon suggests a further dimension: fines issued for deforestation rose significantly in 2004-5 (up to R$ 1.44 billion in 2005), as did fines actually collected (around R$8 million per year). This, coupled with lower soya and beef prices during the same period, made illegal deforesting for agricultural/livestock purposes all the more costly to agricultural producers. Imazon suggests that fines issued may already be high enough, and authorities should focus instead on actually collecting the monies called for. That would drive home the message that illegal deforesting for crop/livestock production is no longer profitable.


    Desde o Ministerio de Meio Ambiente (MMA):

    Taxa de desmatamento na Amazônia cai 25%

    A taxa do desmatamento na Amazônia Legal caiu 25% entre agosto de 2005 e julho de 2006, de acordo com os números finais do Projeto de Monitoramento do Desflorestamento na Amazônia (Prodes). E a queda deverá ser ainda maior – em torno de 10% – a partir deste ano, segundo nova estimativa do Sistema de Detecção de Desmatamento em Tempo Real (Deter). Os dados foram anunciados nesta sexta-feira (10), em Brasília, numa coletiva de imprensa com a presença dos ministros do Meio Ambiente, Marina Silva; de Desenvolvimento Agrário, Guilherme Cassel; da Agricultura, Reinhold Stephanes; e da ministra-chefe da Casa Civil, Dilma Rousseff.

    Esta é a segunda queda no índice desde março de 2004, quando o Plano de Prevenção e Controle do Desmatamento da Amazônia (PPCDA) foi lançado pelo presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Coordenado pela Casa Civil, o plano conta com a participação de 13 ministérios. Desde então, a taxa de desmatamento caiu 49%. Em 2004-2005, a área desmatada na Amazônia foi 18.793 km²; em 2005-2006, foi 14.039 km². Dos nove estados da região, sete tiveram seus índices de desmatamento reduzidos. Um aumento foi verificado em apenas dois estados: Amazonas e Roraima.

    O Pará foi o estado que teve maior área desmatada no período. Mesmo assim, o território paraense registrou uma queda de 4,48% em relação a 2005. Em 2006, a área total desmatada no Pará foi de 5.005 km². O segundo mais desmatado foi o Mato Grosso, ainda que a taxa de desmatamento no estado tenha apresentado queda de 39,36% – dos 7.145 km² registrados em 2005 aos a 4.333 km² de 2006.

    O município que registrou o maior crescimento nos índices de desmatamento foi Novo Repartimento, no Pará: a área total desmatada cresceu de 214 km², em 2005, para 446 km², em 2006. Em contrapartida, o município de São Félix do Xingu, também no Pará – que havia apresentado a maior área desmatada em 2005, com 1.406 km², e foi objeto de intensa fiscalização por parte do Ibama e da Polícia Federal -, registrou a maior queda em 2006, com 764 km² desmatados.

    Nas unidades de conservação (UCs) federais, a variação na queda do desmatamento foi de 56%. Em 2005, o total de área desmatada ficou em 689 km²; em 2006, o total desmatado em UCs foi de 306 km². Esses dados mostram que a criação de UCs, uma das principais políticas do MMA, tem sido fundamental para o combate ao desmatamento.

    Da mesma forma, a evolução do desmatamento em terras indígenas também diminuiu, passando de 441 km², em 2005, para 190 km², em 2006. Nos assentamentos, também houve queda na área desmatada de 4.406 km² para 2.054 km².

    “Retrocedemos ao cenário da década de 70”, disse a ministra do Meio Ambiente, Marina Silva, referindo-se a um período em que a floresta sofria menos pressão. O diretor do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Gilberto Câmara, apresentou os dois sistemas atualmente implementados pelo Inpe: “O Prodes calcula a taxa anual consolidada de desmatamento da Amazônia; o Deter dá estimativas sobre as grandes áreas desmatadas da Amazônia com a maior rapidez possível”.

    “Três eixos temáticos têm sido essenciais neste processo: o ordenamento fundiário territorial, o monitoramento e controle ambiental e o fomento a atividades produtivas sustentáveis”, reiterou a ministra Dilma Rousseff. “O Brasil talvez seja um dos poucos países do mundo a ter a oportunidade de implementar um plano consistente que, ao mesmo tempo em que protege e preserva a rica biodiversidade da Amazônia, reduz de forma expressiva e rápida sua contribuição ao processo de aquecimento global”, completou.

    A maior presença do Estado brasileiro na Amazônia se deu por meio de ações de comando e controle, como a fiscalização e o combate ao comércio ilegal de madeira. A Polícia Federal comandou 20 grandes operações, entre as quais ao menos 14 na região amazônica; o Ibama realizou 446 operações de fiscalização integrada, fora as operações de rotina realizadas pelas superintendências. Foram presas cerca de 600 pessoas, 115 delas servidores do Ibama. Ao todo, foram apreendidas cerca de 1 milhão de m³ de madeira – transportados em 40 mil caminhões que ocupariam a extensão entre o Rio de Janeiro e São Paulo, ou 480 km. Além disso, foram expedidos R$ 3,3 bilhões em multas.

    O ordenamento territorial fundiário permitiu a criação de aproximadamente 20 milhões de hectares de áreas protegidas – o que corresponde a quatro vezes o território do estado do Rio de Janeiro – e a homologação de cerca de 10 milhões de hectares de terras indígenas.

    “Tudo isso demonstra que – quando há planejamento e esforço integrado – é possível, sim, reverter qualquer quadro”, resumiu Marina Silva, ao final da coletiva. E completou: “Queremos dividir esta conquista com toda a sociedade brasileira”.


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