Long-term forest degradation surpasses deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

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Science  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6509, pp. 1378-1382
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb3021

Degradation exceeds deforestation

Forest degradation is a ubiquitous form of human disturbance of the forest landscape. Activities such as selective logging and extraction fall short of total deforestation but lead to loss of biomass and/or fragmentation. On the basis of remote sensing data at 30-meter spatial resolution, Matricardi et al. analyzed the extent of forest degradation across the entire Brazilian Amazon over a ∼22-year period up to 2014. They found that the extent and rate of forest degradation was equal to or greater than deforestation, which has important implications for carbon, biodiversity, and energy balance.

Science, this issue p. 1378


Although deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon are well known, the extent of the area affected by forest degradation is a notable data gap, with implications for conservation biology, carbon cycle science, and international policy. We generated a long-term spatially quantified assessment of forest degradation for the entire Brazilian Amazon from 1992 to 2014. We measured and mapped the full range of activities that degrade forests and evaluated the relationship with deforestation. From 1992 to 2014, the total area of degraded forest was 337,427 square kilometers (km2), compared with 308,311 km2 that were deforested. Forest degradation is a separate and increasing form of forest disturbance, and the area affected is now greater than that due to deforestation.

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