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Deforestation declines in Brazil for third year in a row: report

by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Dec 7, 2007
The rate of deforestation in Brazil's Amazon forest has declined for the third consecutive year, according to figures cited in a Sao Paulo newspaper on Friday.

From 2006 to 2007, the rate of deforestation dropped 20 percent for the 12-month period ending in August, said the daily Estado de Sao Paulo, quoting preliminary figures.

The paper said 11,224 square kilometers (4,333 square miles) of tropical forest had disappeared during the past year, a rate close to the historic low registered in 1991 when 11,030 square kilometers were eliminated.

The figures, presented by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to regional governors on Thursday night, were based on an analysis of satellite images taken between August 2006 and August 2007. Final numbers are to be released in mid-2008.

The first estimate released by the government in August gave a lower figure, with deforestation reduced to 9,600 square kilometers (3,700 square miles).

The secretary-general of the environment ministry, Joao Paulo Capobianco, called the results "positive" but still "far from the government objective of zero deforestation."

Under Brazilian law, land owners in the Amazon are barred from logging more than 20 percent of their property but illegal logging is rampant in the region.

Compared to 2004, when the level of deforestation hit an ill-time high of 23,379 square kilometers, logging in the past year declined 59 percent.

From 2004 to 2005, logging declined by 31 percent and from 2005 to 2006, it dropped by 25 percent.

The government attributes the decline in deforestation to its monitoring program and the creation of protected areas but researchers say the change is due to a fall in the world price of soya and livestock.

More than 17 percent of the Amazon's original vegetation has been destroyed, mostly due to slashing forest to create rangeland for livestock. Some researchers estimate that by 2050, 40 percent of the rain forest will be wiped out.

Scientists warn that the destruction of Amazonian forest threatens to accelerate global warming.

The Amazon plays an important role in the global climate system, with its trees absorbing carbon dioxide -- one of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

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Up to 60 pct of Amazon at risk from climate change: WWF
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Dec 6, 2007
Deforestation and climate change could wipe out or damage up to 60 percent of the vital Amazon forest by 2030, causing knock on effects across the globe, green group WWF warned Thursday.

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