Brazil: deforestation jumps in world’s largest savanna as scientists raise alarm

Deforestation last year rose to the highest level since 2015 in Brazil’s Cerrado, prompting scientists on Monday to raise alarm over the state of the world’s most species-rich savanna and a major carbon sink that helps to stave off climate change.

The Cerrado, the world’s largest savanna spread across several states of Brazil, is often called an “upside-down forest” because of the deep roots its plants sink into the ground to survive seasonal droughts and fires.

Deforestation and other clearances of native vegetation in the Cerrado rose 8% to 8,531 sqkm (2.1 million acres) in the 12 months through July. That is more than 10 times the size of New York City’s land area.

“It’s extremely worrying,” said Mercedes Bustamante, an ecologist at the University of Brasilia. Bustamante also criticized the government for a lack of transparency for announcing the deforestation data on New Year’s Eve.

The added destruction is particularly concerning, scientists say, when considering that roughly half of the Cerrado has been destroyed since the 1970s, mostly for farming and ranching.

“You’re transforming thousands of square kilometers annually,” said Manuel Ferreira, a geographer at the Federal University of Goias. “Few other places on earth have seen that rapid of a transformation.”

‘Carbon bomb’: Queensland, Australia, reveals big jump in land clearing

Queensland landholders are clearing the equivalent of about 1,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds a day, including endangered ecological regions, according to state government data that raises new doubts about the accuracy of Australia’s carbon emissions claims.

The Statewide Landcover and Trees Study for 2018-19 showed landholders cleared 680,688 hectares (1.7 million acres) of woody vegetation, or about 0.7% of Queensland’s total.

About 84% of 2018-19 land clearing destroyed vegetation that was at least 15 years old, the new report said. The great bulk of the deforestation, or 88%, involved land with less than 50% tree cover.

Stuart Blanch, a WWF Australia conservation scientist, said the figures were “a real shocker”, deliberately released ahead of New Year’s Eve to stir up the least attention. The data also suggests Australia’s carbon emissions are worse than reported, he said. “We’re a massive land-clearing nation. Queensland has got the vast majority of it, and the vast majority of that is for beef.”

Glenn Walker, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace, said the Slats data was “extraordinary, horrifying figures” that showed Australia remained one of the world’s fastest deforesting nations.

“Behind these figures are millions of killed and maimed native animals like koalas and huge amounts of carbon emissions from burning and rotting trees,” Walker said. “Clearly the current laws aren’t working and the beef sector isn’t taking this issue seriously. This should be a huge wake-up call to act fast before we lose more precious bushland and wildlife.”

Drought and heatwaves in Australia cause widespread tree death

The drought and heatwaves that seared eastern Australia in the lead-up to the 2019-20 black summer bushfires killed as much as 60% of the trees in some areas that escaped the fires.

While Australian species are typically hardened to extreme conditions, the record heat and dryness of 2019 pushed some common tree varieties beyond their thresholds, potentially threatening whole ecosystems if they don’t grow back.

The widespread loss of often common species could trigger the transformation of ecosystems from forests to woodlands, or woodlands to scrublands.

The potential change of tree species could have far-reaching effects because such shifts would alter the availability and seasonality of food resources for insects, birds and other species.

Brazil Amazon deforestation up 22% in a year; a 15 year record

The 13,235 square kilometers (5,110 square miles) of forest lost from August 2020 to July 2021 was the largest swath since 14,286 square kilometers were cleared in 2005-06.

The rate of clearance in the past year is equivalent to 6 acres per minute, continuously all day and night.

Wildfires are ravaging forests set aside to soak up greenhouse gases

The wildfires in the American West are burning vast expanses of specially protected forests — those that are part of carbon-offset projects meant to counterbalance the carbon dioxide pollution being pumped into the atmosphere by human activity.

Pakistan’s mission to plant 10 billion trees across the country

It’s all part of an effort that started in 2015, when Imran Khan — then a provincial politician and now Pakistan’s prime minister — backed a program dubbed a “Billion Tree Tsunami.” The initiative reached its province-wide target in 2018 and was so successful that federal officials expanded the drive nationally in 2019 with a new goal of 10 billion trees — or, the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami.”

Direct planting accounts for about 40% of the program’s new trees.

The other 60% come from assisted regeneration, in which community members are paid to protect existing forests so that trees can propagate and thrive.

Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon hits highest annual level in a decade

Area lost is 57% higher than in the previous year and is the worst since 2012.

“Deforestation is still out of control,” Carlos Souza, a researcher at Imazon said. “Brazil is going against the global climate agenda that is seeking to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

In June, then-environment minister Ricardo Salles resigned amid a criminal investigation over allegations that a police investigation into illegal Amazon logging was blocked.