Analysis by Imazon, a research institute, has confirmed a huge surge in deforestation in a critical part of the Brazilian Amazon.

Imazon’s satellite-based deforestation detection system recorded a near doubling in forest clearing in the state of Mato Grosso from August 2010-April 2011 over the year-earlier period. The findings are significant because Mato Grosso, which accounts for the bulk of Amazon deforestation in most years, is a bellwether for deforestation trends in Brazil.

Imazon’s analysis shows that deforestation amounted to 243 km square in Mato Grosso in the month of April, a 537 percent increase over April 2010. But forest degradation — logging, burning, and thinning of forest that often precedes deforestation — reached 1,755 square kilometers in the month, up from 13 square kilometers April a year earlier.

The news comes just days after data leaked by Brazil’s national space research agency INPE also showed a big increase in deforestation. But INPE hasn’t officially released the data from its rapid deforestation detection (DETER) system, which has now been delayed by more than two months.

Imazon and other groups say the spike in deforestation is related to the ongoing debate over Brazil’s forest code. Anticipating a weakening in the code that would grant amnesty for deforestation, farmers and ranchers have been clearing swathes of forest. Dry conditions, lingering from last year’s worst-ever drought, have exacerbated the situation.


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