January 29, 2023

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Amazon has lost 10% of its native vegetation, mostly tropical rainforest, in nearly four decades, an area about the size of Texas, according to a new report.

From 1985 to 2021, the deforested area grew from 490,000 square kilometers (190,000 sq mi) to 1,250,000 square kilometers (482,000 sq mi), an unprecedented level of destruction in the Amazon, according to the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information, or Raisg.

Figures are calculated from annual satellite monitoring since 1985 from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana. The report is a collaboration between Raisg and MapBiomas, a network of Brazilian nonprofits, universities and technology startups.

“The losses have been enormous, virtually irreversible and with no expectation of a turnaround,” Raisg, a consortium of civil society organizations from countries in the region, said in a statement on Friday. “The data signals a yellow light, conveying a sense of urgency in the need for coordinated, decisive and compelling international action.”

Brazil, which owns about two-thirds of the Amazon, is also leading the way in destruction. In nearly four decades, 19% of the rainforest has been destroyed, largely due to the expansion of pastoralism, aided by the opening of roads. The country was responsible for 84% of all forest destruction during that period.

Almost half of Brazil’s CO2 emissions come from deforestation. So great is the destruction that the eastern Amazon is no longer a carbon sink or absorber for Earth, but has become a source of carbon, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Nature.

As of 2021, 74% of its area in the Amazon was covered by tropical rainforests and 9% by other natural vegetation types. The 8.5 million square kilometer region has a population of 47 million, according to Raisg estimates.

“At least about 75 billion tons of carbon is stored throughout the Amazon,” Woods Hole Research Center researcher Wayne Walker said during a news conference Friday in Lima, Peru. “If all that carbon was released into the atmosphere immediately, it would be about seven times the global annual emissions.”


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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