In an encouraging sign for the health of the world's largest rainforest and hotbed of biodiversity, Brazil's environmental protection agency is reporting that deforestation rates in the Amazon over the previous year are now the lowest on record.
Following a four year trend in the reduction of forest loss, the pattern shows no sign of slowing. According to the National Institute of Space Research, the agency responsible for monitoring deforestation in the Amazon, between Aug. 2011 and July 2012, 1,797 square miles of forest was cleared. And while that still amounts to an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, it is actually a reduction 27 percent from last year's previous record.Thanks to satellite monitoring capable of recognizing areas of deforestation as they develop and stepped-up law enforcement, it is more difficult than ever for ranchers or illegal lumber operations from clearing the forest without facing prosecution.
Welcome news as it may be, upticks in deforestation rates have been seen before in the 24 years since monitoring began, though hopefully the downward trend will continue until clearing is negligible. After all, given the Amazon's important role as a global oxygen producer, eliminating deforestation shouldn't be a pillar among environmentalists, but everyone that hopes for a habitable future planet as well.