A study conducted by scientists in Brazil and the United Kingdom has quantified the impact that selective logging, partial destruction by burning, and fragmentation resulting from the development of pastures and plantations have had on the Amazon rainforest. In combination, these factors could be removing nearly 54 million tons of carbon from the forest each year, introduced into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. This total represents up to 40% of the carbon loss caused by deforestation in the region.
The study, which was conducted by 10 researchers from 11 institutions in Brazil and the United Kingdom, was published in the May issue of the journal Global Change Biology.
"The impacts of timber extraction, burning and fragmentation have received little notice because all the efforts have been focused on preventing further deforestation. This attitude has resulted in tremendous progress in conserving the Brazilian Amazon, whose deforestation rate fell more than 70% over the past 10 years. However, our study has shown that this other type of degradation is having a severe impact on the forest, with enormous quantities of previously stored carbon being lost into the atmosphere," said Erika Berenguer, researcher from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom, first author on the study.
According to Joice Ferreira, researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa Amaznia Oriental) in Belm, state of Par, and second author on the study, one of the reasons that this degradation has gone unnoticed is that it is difficult to monitor. "Satellite imagery allows much easier detection of areas that are totally deforested," she said.
"Our research combined satellite imagery with field study. We conducted a pixel-by-pixel assessment [each pixel in the image corresponds to an area measuring 900 meters squared (m2)] regarding what has happened over the past 20 years. In the field research, we stu
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