Even with signs of a drop in 2023, deforestation remains high in the Amazon; situation is critical in the Cerrado

05 maio 2023

Area cleared in the first four months of the year in the biome was 38% smaller than in the same period in 2023, but the accumulated deforestation since August is the highest ever recorded; the Cerrado had an increase of 17% in the period of 2023
Deforestation alerts accumulated in the first four months of 2023 in the Amazon reached 1,132 km², an area 38% smaller compared to the same period of the previous year, according to data from the DETER System, by INPE (National Institute for Space Research). This reduction detected since January may be a sign of a reversal in the trend towards the destruction of the biome, but it is still too early to know whether such a change will be consolidated.

In April, the drop in the detected area of deforestation was 64% compared to April 2022, from 898 to 321 km².
The situation is concerning, however, considering the full period of DETER annual measurement, which started on August 1st. In these nine months (between August 2022 and April 2023), the Amazon has already lost 5,936 km2. It is the highest value in the historical series for this period, surpassing by 20% data recorded between August 2021 and April 2022.

“We received the April figures as a positive sign, but unfortunately we still cannot declare a downward trend in deforestation in the Amazon. The numbers are at a very high level and the dry season, which is favourable to deforestation, has not yet started”, says Mariana Napolitano, Conservation Manager at WWF-Brazil.

According to her, enforcement measures need to proceed and consolidate to ensure that destruction rates keep falling. “Other initiatives such as incentives for the green economy, the creation of protected areas and the demarcation of indigenous lands, such as those that took place recently, are necessary”, she says.

INPE also released the new consolidated values of the PRODES System, which establishes the official deforestation rate of the Legal Amazon, confirming an 11% drop in deforestation in 2022, after four consecutive years of increase. Although the drop is a good sign, destruction still remains at extremely high levels: 11,594 km².
The deforestation trend in the Amazon has been increasing since 2012, with values practically tripling in 10 years. The greatest acceleration occurred between 2019 and 2021, during the Jair Bolsonaro government, when annual deforestation rates broke the 10,000 km² mark.


In the Cerrado, the situation is clearly more alarming. According to DETER, in the first four months of 2023, 2,133 km2 were devastated, a value 17% higher than that recorded in the same period last year and 48% higher than the historical average. In April alone, this increase was 31% compared to April 2022, going from 541 to 709 km², an area about twice as large as that deforested in the Legal Amazon.

Additionally, the values may be underestimated due to cloud cover that has remained well above average over the past four months.

About 80% of the deforestation alerts occurred in areas of MATOPIBA (Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia states), a region that is considered the main frontier of agricultural expansion in Brazil, and one of the main fronts of destruction of ecosystems in the world.

In the first nine months of the full periodo of DETER annual measurement, starting on August 1st, there were deforestation alerts for 3,473 km2 in the biome, a value 10% higher than that recorded in the previous period (between August 2021 and April 2022) and 15% higher than the historical average.

“Between January and April alone, the Cerrado lost 2,133 km². Unfortunately, this number is in a context of continuous and increasing destruction that has been happening for a long time. This devastation has already consumed half of the biome, which is heavily pressured by agricultural activities,” says Edegar de Oliveira, director of Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration at WWF-Brazil.

According to him, despite all the attention to the Amazon, one cannot forget that the main river basins in the country originate in the Cerrado. "Deforestation threatens the water security of large cities and especially the agricultural sector, which needs a safe rainfall regime to maintain its productivity", he says.

When estimating deforestation in relation to the remaining area of primary vegetation, the Cerrado has a rate around 3 times higher than the Amazon. The Cerrado has already lost almost half of its coverage. The Cerrado has only 3% of its area under strict protection, very little for a biome that has the largest agricultural frontier in the world and which has already lost almost half of its original area.

In both biomes, the explosion in deforestation is linked to several actions taken by the previous administration: the weakening of the framework for environmental protection in Brazil; the deregulation actions that reduced the rights of indigenous peoples concerning the demarcation of their lands; the government's speech, which was totally permissive to illegalities related to land use; and successive budget cuts and replacement of leadership positions in government bodies that contribute to monitoring actions, management of natural resources and the fight against deforestation.
In April, the drop in the detected area of deforestation was 64% compared to April 2022, from 898 to 321 km².
© Adriano Gambarini / WWF-Brasil
About 80% of the deforestation alerts occurred in areas of MATOPIBA
© André Dib/WWF-Brasil
In both biomes, the explosion in deforestation is linked to several actions taken by the previous administration
© Fernando Augusto;Ibama