The deforestation of the Amazon in pictures

Deforestation in the Rondonia State, western Brazil, from 2000 to 2008. Photo credit: NASAImages are worth thousands of words. So when I found on VeoVerde a series of photographs from the NASA depicting the deforestation of the Amazonian rain forest I thought I should share them with you.

The picture on the left (0.4 Mo ; 465*3000 px) is a collage of  nine photographs and shows the horrifying process at work between 2000 and 2008 in the western State of Rondonia, Brazil.

It’s high time we find an alternative economic model that would allow the preservation of the rainforest and the subsistence of the populations.

Here the text accompanying the pictures on the NASA website:

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. In the past three decades, clearing and degradation of the state’s original 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres, an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas) has been rapid: 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978; 30,000 by 1988; and 53,300 by 1998.

By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of rainforest—an area larger than the state of West Virginia—had been cleared.

By the beginning of this decade, the frontier had reached the remote northwest corner of Rondônia, pictured in this series of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Intact forest is deep green, while cleared areas are tan (bare ground) or light green (crops, pasture, or occasionally, second-growth forest).

Over the span of eight years, roads and clearings pushed west-northwest from Buritis toward the Jaciparaná River. The deforested area along the road into Nova Mamoré expanded north-northeast all the way to the BR-346 highway.

Deforestation follows a fairly predictable pattern in these images. The first clearings that appear in the forest are in a fishbone pattern, arrayed along the edges of roads. Over time, the fishbones collapse into a mixture of forest remnants, cleared areas, and settlements.

This pattern follows one of the most common deforestation trajectories in the Amazon. Legal and illegal roads penetrate a remote part of the forest, and small farmers migrate to the area. They claim land along the road and clear some of it for crops. Within a few years, heavy rains and erosion deplete the soil, and crop yields fall.

Farmers then convert the degraded land to cattle pasture, and clear more forest for crops. Eventually the small land holders, having cleared much of their land, sell it or abandon it to large cattle holders, who consolidate the plots into large areas of pasture.

This might put in perspective this article from the BBC I twitted about last month.

As for the above mentioned alternative we have to find, please check out this article about a WWF study.

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