The deforestation rate in the Amazon rose 11% from the prior record year and alerts hit monthly records four times this year, preliminary government data showed on Friday. Nearly 4,000 square kilometres of forests have been cleared since January.

Last month, an area nearly three times the size of Sao Paulo – Brazil’s biggest city – was cleared in the world’s largest rainforest. But June was just one of the four months where deforestation rates reached record levels this year, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) alert system.

As the world’s largest natural carbon sink, the Amazon rainforest provides one of the greatest services for the planet, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it a great ally in the fight against climate change. However, decades of persistent and large-scale deforestation have converted the forest into a carbon source, as the quantity of gases emitted when trees are cleared is not much higher than the amount they absorb. According to a 2021 study published in Nature, the forest emits around one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to the annual emissions released in the world’s fifth-largest polluter, Japan.

The forest is also home to more than 40,000 plants and over 4,000 animal species including 3,000 freshwater fish, thousands of birds and butterflies, and mammals. However, rampant deforestation and increasing wildfires exacerbated by climate change are destroying more natural habitats every day, threatening the survival of many important and rare species.

You Might Also Like: 10 Stunning Amazon Rainforest Facts to Know About

Under Bolsonaro’s presidency, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest rose sharply. The president, who is often described as ‘the world’s most dangerous climate denier’, has been reducing budgets for law enforcement, forgiving fines for illegal deforestation, and rolling back laws restricting forest clearing

Yet, many believe that the deterioration of Brazil’s environmental reputation may be turned against him by challengers as he seeks re-election in October. Last week, leftist Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is running for election against Bolsonaro, announced intentions to appoint a special climate envoy to help rebuild the country’s environmental authority abroad while working on policies to restore the world’s largest rainforest.

Scientists warn that the intense slashing and burning activities to convert the rainforest land for lucrative activities – from agriculture to gold mining – have left enormous quantities of dry leaves, grass, branches, and other organic material in the soil, which make for the perfect fuel for fires in coming months, as the weather in the region turns drier and temperatures rise. As the INPE shows, wildfires in the Amazon Biome rose 18% through June and are likely to worsen in the months ahead.

You Might Also Like: Deforestation in Colombia: An Intricate Story of Conflict and Power