Climate crisis

In 12 months, deforestation increases by 16.5% in the Cerrado and drops by 7.4% in the Amazon

Cerrado had 6,359 km² of deforested area, the largest for the biome since the beginning of its historical series in 2017

Translated by: Lucas Peresin

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (Brazil) |

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Deforestation in the Amazon drops by half in 2023 and returns to pre-Bolsonaro levels
Deforestation in the Amazon drops by half in 2023 and returns to pre-Bolsonaro levels - FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR / AFP

Between August 2022 and July 2023, deforestation alerts in the Cerrado grew by 16.5% compared to the previous year. 6,300 km² of vegetation were destroyed. The data were released this Thursday, August 3, by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). 

The information captured by the Deter system, with satellite images in almost real time, indicate, on the other hand, that in the Amazon there was a 7.4% reduction in alerts in the same period. 

If we focus only on the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year, when Bolsonaro (Liberal Party) began his last year in office, the drop in deforestation alerts in the Brazilian Amazon was 42.5%.

:: Cerrado pode perder até 35% das reservas de água até 2050, aponta estudo ::

The month of July, the most favorable month for fire outbreaks due to the drought in the Amazon region, broke a historical record for the reduction of deforestation alerts. The drop was 63% compared to July 2022.  

In the Cerrado, on the other hand, the increase in the first half of 2023 reached 21.7%. Deter's monitoring detected that of all deforestation in the biome, the Matopiba region – which corresponds to the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia – concentrates 78.7%. The state of Bahia leads the ranking, followed by the state of Maranhão.

Complex reality, but greater know-how

At the federal government event in Brasília, where the data were released, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva, compared the current challenges with those she faced 20 years ago, when she ran the same Ministry in the first presidential term of Lula (Workers' Party).  

In 2003, pointed out Marina Silva, there was not the “more complex reality that involves forms of criminality” that exists today. In her evaluation there is, on the other hand, an improvement of knowledge. According to the minister, in her first administration, a 32% drop in deforestation in the Amazon was achieved after more than a year of work. 

:: Zerar desmatamento da Amazônia e Cerrado renderia R$ 1,2 trilhão ao PIB mundial, diz estudo ::

“In these first 6 months, with the know-how we have, despite the dismantling of the institutions, we achieved a drop of 42.6%”, Marina Silva highlighted. “The other time we had to fix the plane while it was still flying. This time we had to build the plane while it was still flying. And another factor comes in: making public policy based on evidence,” said the Minister of the Environment.

“But we know that a structural change is needed”, adds Marina Silva, listing examples: “Bioeconomy, low carbon agriculture, adding value to products, that is what will create a new prosperity cycle”. 

“In addition to coercion and monitoring actions, we need a plan and that is what is in progress”, said Luciana Santos, Brazilian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Government sector to which Inpe is linked. 

“It is complex, but we are acting with the truth. With the transparency of the uncontested advances in controlling deforestation in the Amazon and that more assertive measures will be needed in relation to the Cerrado”, Santos evaluated.

:: Cerrado Brasileiro já está mais quente e seco devido à devastação, mostra pesquisa ::

Increase in inspections

General Coordinator of Earth Sciences at Inpe, João Paulo Capobianco highlighted that the actions of Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) and ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation) allowed, “in an unquestionable way, changing the acceleration curve to reduce deforestation alerts in the Amazon”. 

Between January and July of this year, Ibama applied almost four thousand environmental fines in the Amazon biome. It was a 173% increase over the same period of the last four years. Apprehensions of equipment used in environmental crimes jumped 107%. The assessments issued by ICMBio grew by 216%. 

In addition, 3,200 heads of cattle were seized in the Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve. “This is a completely fundamental act. There will be no connivance and, if they do not remove the cattle within the agreed period, the cattle will be removed and delivered for social uses”, highlighted Capobianco.

Legal deforestation in the Cerrado biome

Regarding the scenario in the Cerrado, the INPE coordinator commented on factors that “do not justify, but explain, the difficulties”. “There was more focus on the Amazon and less time for direct action in the field. But the cerrado has an additional factor that will require an important discussion by Brazilian society”, he introduced.

"Unlike the Amazon, where the mandatory legal reserve - that is, that area that every property has to maintain with native vegetation - is 80%, in the Cerrado it is 20%", he explained. “In the Cerrado, there is a greater possibility of legal deforestation. And that is what is happening”, Capobianco said.

“We have cases of illegal deforestation, landowners who took advantage of the deforestation authorization and expanded this area. But the fact is that an enormous volume of authorizations for deforestation in the Cerrado is being presented, in an arguable way to say the least”, warns Inpe's Earth Sciences coordinator.

Edited by: Nadini Lopes e Vivian Virissimo