September went down in history as a record-breaking month for deforestation in the Amazon as Brazil is set to elect a new president. A surge in fires in the region led to the destruction of the largest forest area since records began.

Deforestation in the Amazon hit yet another record high. Last month, the world’s green lung lost its largest area of coverage for a September since current records began in 2015.

The total coverage loss is equivalent to 1,455 square kilometres (562 square miles), a staggering 48% increase from just a year ago and more than the current record, which was hit in September 2019. 

Satellite images from the Brazilian space research agency INPE showed that 2022 rates of deforestation in the Amazon also hit a record high for the first nine months of the year. Since January, an area 11 times the size of New York City was cleared.

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A contributing factor was a dramatic surge in fires across the region – the highest in more than a decade. INPE recorded a total of 41,282 fires in the Amazon in September alone.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, making up half of the planet’s tropical forests. It is also one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems and is home to about three million species of plants and animals, as well as one million indigenous people. Despite efforts to protect forest land, legal deforestation is still rampant, and about one-third of global tropical deforestation occurs in Brazil’s Amazon forest, amounting to 1.5 million hectares each year

Forest clearing is surging as Brazil is set to elect a new president. Since the country’s current president Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, deforestation rates have soared to record-high levels. According to data from both the Brazilian government and Imazon, an NGO that independently tracks forest destruction, deforestation is distinctly higher under the Bolsonaro administration than at any time during Brazil’s two previous presidencies. 

Deforestation in the Amazon

Source: Nature

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is running for election against Bolsonaro, proposed a political plan which includes a strong focus on preserving and restoring Brazil’s environment. If elected, Lula pledged to seek “net-zero deforestation”. He also proposed a forest conservation alliance between Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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