Between August 2010 and June 2011, 2,408 square miles of Amazon was illegally denuded in Brazil -- and although that's roughly equivalent to the area of Delaware -- it's actually a welcome number. According to a statement released by the Brazilian government, the latest figures on the rate of deforestation in the world largest rainforest show a drop to the lowest levels since satellite monitoring began in 1988. What's more is that the new figures suggest a trend of decreasing forest loss; the previous record low was seen the year before.
The encouraging announcement was put forth by the director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Beginning in the late 1980's, INPE has sought to monitor Amazon forest cover via satellite imaging on a monthly basis. Since then, it has become an invaluable tool to assess the state of the rainforest and to quickly dispatch authorities to specific areas where deforestation appears to be on the rise.
With the help of this system, known as Project Monitoring Deforestation in the Amazon (PRODES), along with improvements in land management on a local and federal level, that has allowed for illegal logging practices to slow in recent years.
While environmentalists are no doubt welcoming of the apparent decrease, some are awaiting all deforestation data to be consolidated in early 2012 which will better reflect the clearing rate than the current month-by-month figures assessed by PRODES.
The lower rate of deforestation is clearly a positive step forward, though the Amazon region is not without persisting threats. Many believe that preposed changes to Brazil's Forest Code, in addition to an alarming poor record of prosecution of deforesters, casts a long shadow on the future of the world's largest rainforest.