For the last several years, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have been in steady decline, reaching its lowest point on record just last year. But despite this progress the latest figures show that we are not out of the woods yet -- in a literal sense of that phrase, however, we are a little closer.
According to the Brazilian forest monitoring agency, IMAZON, which uses satellite imagery to track deforestation in near real-time, the world's largest rainforest lost of 606 square miles of rainforest between August 2012 and April 2013 -- an area equivalent to nearly 300,000 football fields. All told, this latest figure represents an increase of 88 percent over the previous year in which 322 square miles was cleared.
While a troubling turn in light of the steady decline of recent years, the rate recorded in this uptick still pales in comparison to record highs. At its peak in 1995, a total of 9,675 square miles of forest was lost in Brazil, though stepped-up enforcement and improved land management has led to a decline every year since 2004.
It's unclear what caused the increase in deforestation this year over last, but Mongabay offers several possible explanations, including recent changes to Brazil's Forest Code which determines the percentage of forest which must be preserved on plantations and ranches. Also, as the Brazilian currency has weakened in this period, the financial incentives to export lumber may have led to an increase in illegal forest harvesting.