Deforestation rates in the Cerrado savanna jumped by 8% last year, as Brazil announces they will no longer monitor deforestation in the vulnerable ecosystem.

2021 saw deforestation in the Cerrado in Brazil rose up to its highest levels since 2015, as scientists worry about the state of one of the most richly biodiverse savannas in the world and important carbon sink that helps mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The Cerrado is the world’s largest savanna that stretches across several Brazilian states, neighbouring the Amazon rainforest. It is often referred to as an upside-down forest as its plants sink roots deep into the ground. 

According to the national space research agency Inpe, deforestation and land clearing climbed 8% to 8,531 square kilometres (2.11 million acres) in the Cerrado in the 12-months through July,  The amount of land loss is equivalent to 10 New York cities. 

This rapid rate of deforestation and continuous increase has alarmed many scientists, as nearly half of the Cerrado has been destroyed since the 1970s, primarily as a result of farming and ranching.

“You’re transforming thousands of square kilometres annually,” stated Manuel Ferreira, a geographer at the Federal University of Goias. “Few other places on Earth have seen that rapid of a transformation.” According to Ferreira, new plant and animal species are regularly being discovered in the savanna, and deforestation is preventing scientists the chance to study them as they’re being eradicated. 

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Days after the worrying stats were released, a Brazilian government researcher announced the country will cease deforestation monitoring operations in the Cerrado due to the lack of funds. The agency Inpe will no longer produce annual figures, which are important in galvanising climate action, and only a minimal team will continue producing monthly deforestation figures until funds run out in the next six months or less. 

Deforestation rates, particular in the Amazon rainforest, have soared since rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019. The president has famously encouraged commercial farming and mining in protected areas of the forests to be increased, as well as other activities that would lead to the destruction of forests. 

Despite joining an international pledge at COP26 to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030, Bolsonaro has yet to demonstrate any concrete efforts in meeting that promise. Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in fact, recently hit a 15-year high, where 13,235 sq km (5110 sq miles) were lost during the period between August of 2020 and July 2021.