A MapBiomas study released at COP27 on changes in land use in threatened South American ecosystems found that expanding farming and cattle raising activities were drivers for the loss of Amazonian forests between 1985 and 2020.
Over 31 billion tons of CO2 equivalent were released into the atmosphere by deforestation activities inside the Brazilian Legal Amazon between 1985 and 2020. The volume represents nearly 70% of all emissions caused by the loss of forests in all of Pan-Amazonia over the period.
Territories of nine different countries compose the part of Amazonia where deforestation was responsible for the emission of 45.1 billion tons of greenhouse gases over the last three and a half decades. These were the findings of a MapBiomas study on land use conversions in threatened ecosystems released at the 27th UN Conference on Climate Change (COP 27).
In this period, Pan-Amazonia lost 75 million hectares (Mha) of native vegetation, or 9.6% of its territory. It is an area nearly the size of Chile. Forests were the most affected, with 58.4 Mha of lost area. Savannas and natural non-forest formations were also impacted by human activities inside South America’s largest biome.
In 1985, 92% of Amazonia was still covered with native vegetation. By 2020, this cover had fallen to 83%. The loss of 9.6% over these 35 years was greater than all the area lost in the 500 years since the continent was colonized by Europeans.
Brazil’s territory encompasses 62% of Pan-Amazonia and it was here that 81% of the lost vegetation once stood. The study also warns that the current percentage of vegetation left in Amazonia (83%) is nearing the point of no return, when the forest loses its natural ability to regenerate itself. “If we continue destroying vegetation the way we are, we may hit the tipping point during this decade. If that happens, Earth’s largest tropical rainforest will be transformed into a generator of greenhouse gases,” affirms Julia Shimbo, scientific coordinator of MapBiomas in Brazil.