Small-scale Deforestation is on the Rise in the Amazon

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Researchers analyzed forest loss rates across the entire Amazon between 2001 and 2014.  The authors of a study published in Nature found three trends.  First, hotspots in Amazonian deforestation shifted geographically from the Amazon in southern Brazilian to Peru and Bolivia.  Large-scale forest clearing (>50 ha) was down 46% during the study period.  In contrast, the researchers found that small-scale clearings (<1 ha)  increased 36% between 2001–2007 and 2008–2014.  During the second period of increase (2008–2014), the geographic extent of the expanded significantly.

Hotspots of Amazon Deforestation

During the period 2001-2007, spatial hotspots were concentrated in the Amazon area known as the ‘arc of deforestation’ which extends across the southern rim of the Brazilian Amazon from Pará to Rondônia.  Almost all of the deforestation hotspots during this period occurred in Brazil with the exception of a small region in western Santa Cruz state of Bolivia.  Comparatively, the authors note that the geographic expansion of deforestation hotspots in the period 2008-2014 occurred due to three reasons:


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1) the weakening of the Brazilian ‘arc of deforestation’ as a deforestation hotspot, 2) the southward expansion of the Bolivian hotspot of deforestation and 3) the emergence of a new deforestation hotspot in Amazonian Peru.

Hotspots of Amazonian forest loss for two time periods: 2001–2007 and 2008–2014. Higher values indicate increased clustering of deforestation patches. Map: Kalamandeen et al., 2018
Hotspots of Amazonian forest loss for two time periods: 2001–2007 and 2008–2014. Higher values indicate increased clustering of deforestation patches. Map: Kalamandeen et al., 2018

Deforestation Sizes

While the average mean forest loss patch size between 2001 and 2014 was 10.25 ha, the sizes range considerably.  Brazil had the largest mean forest loss patch size at 15.6 ha while Ecuador was the smallest at 0.5ha.  96.4% of all forest lost patches were under 6.25 ha.

The Study

Kalamandeen, M., Gloor, E., Mitchard, E., Quincey, D., Ziv, G., Spracklen, D., … & Galbraith, D. (2018). Pervasive rise of small-scale deforestation in Amazonia. Scientific reports8(1), 1600. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-19358-2

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