In 2021, Amazon had the worst deforestation in the decade

Deforested area was 29% bigger in comparison to the previous year. Half of the devastation occurred in federal areas

Dilson Pimentel


The deforestation advance in the Amazon rainforest accumulated in 2021 resulted in it's worst year in a decade. From January to December of last year, 10,362 km² of the forest were destroyed. The data is provided by the Deforestation Alert System (SAD) of the Institute of Man and the Environment of the Amazon (Imazon), responsible for the monitoring of the region through satellite images. In comparison to 2020, the year in which deforestation in the Amazon had already occupied it's biggest area since 2012, with 8,096 km² of destroyed forest, the devastation in 2021 was 29% bigger.

Despite the month of December showing a 49% reduction in deforestation, from 276 km² of devastated area, in 2020, to 140 km², in 2021, the new negative annual record is considered serious by researchers monitoring the region. According to research institutes, among the consequences of forest chopping are the change in rainfall schedule in Brazil and neighboring countries, the loss of biodiversity, among others.

Crossing the deforested areas with the Brazilian Forest Service (SFB) National Public Forest Registry database, researchers observed that 4,915 km² were devastated within federal territories. This corresponds to 47% of all deforestation registered in the Amazon last year. In these areas alone, destruction has increased by 21% compared to 2020 – and it was also the worst in 10 years.

Created to preserve biodiversity and maintain sustainable ways of life for people and communities, Brazil's federal conservation units have also seen deforestation advance across their territories in the Amazon. In 2021, 507 km² of native forest were devastated within these protected areas, an increase of 10% compared to the previous year. Also in these territories, the devastation reached the worst level of the decade.

“To fight deforestation, it is necessary to intensify inspections, especially in the most critical areas. Apply penalties and embargo to illegally deforested areas,” says Larissa Amorim, a researcher at Imazon.          

(Vinícius Mendonça / Ibama)


The crossing of data on devastation in the Brazilian Amazon in 2021 also indicates that 813 km² were destroyed in state public forests in the different Federation Units of the region, which is equivalent to 8% of the total deforested in the Amazon. In these areas, deforestation also reached, in 2021, the highest accumulated index of the decade, growing 26% compared to 2020.

In state conservation units alone, 690 km² were destroyed last year, a result 24% bigger than in 2020. “States carry out actions to combat deforestation, but they end up being insufficient in the face of the increasing devastation that the Amazon is facing. State governments need to go further and make a commitment to intensify inspection actions”, asserts the researcher.


Numbers in the states had strong rising


Among the nine states that constitute the Brazilian Legal Amazon, only Amapá did not show an increase in deforestation in 2021 compared to 2020. In addition to overcoming the devastation recorded in the previous year, Acre, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins also had the largest areas of forest destroyed in 10 years.

Historically considered the Brazilian state that leads the advance on the forest in the Amazon, due to extension, the history of occupation and the dynamics of the economy, Pará maintained in 2021 the first place in the ranking of those that most deforest, with 4,037 km² devastated - the equivalent to 39% of what was registered in the entire region in that period. In the state, there were increases in forest chopping in both federal and state areas. In addition, more than half of the ten indigenous lands and ten conservation units that recorded the highest rates of deforestation in 2021 are located in Pará.


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(Vinícius Mendonça / Ibama)


The second state to deforest the most, Amazonas was the one that presented the biggest growth in deforestation in relation to the previous year. The destruction registered on the Amazonas soil increased from 1,395 km² chopped in 2020 to 2,071 km² devastated in 2021 - a 49% increase. In Amazonas, there was also an increase in deforestation in both federal and state areas.

Third in the deforestation ranking in 2021, Mato Grosso devastated 1,504 km² in the period, 38% more than in the previous year. This caused the state to have the second largest increase compared to 2020. Rondônia (1,290 km²) and Acre (889 km²) occupied the fourth and fifth places in deforested area, but Acre was the third with the largest increase compared to with 2020, accumulating 28% growth in advance over the forest, points out Imazon.

In the period from August 1st in 2020 to July 31 in 2021, the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Legal Amazon was 13,235 square kilometers (km²). The index calculated by the Project for Monitoring Deforestation in the Legal Amazon by Satellite (Prodes) represents an increase of 21.97% in comparison to the deforestation rate of the previous period. The information was released on November 18th, by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).

The mapping is based on Landsat satellite images and similars, and considers deforestation as the “complete removal of primary forest cover by clear cutting, regardless of the future use of these areas”.

According to data from Inpe, the states of Pará, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Rondônia accumulated 87.25% of this estimated deforestation in the Legal Amazon - with Pará being the state with the highest absolute contribution to this advance (5,257 km2) and also the smallest percentage change in deforestation (7.31%).


"Operation's pressure must be kept", says vice-president of the Republic


At the end of last year, the vice president of the Republic, General Hamilton Mourão, stated that it is necessary that the "operation's pressure must be kept" against environmental crimes in the Amazon, but also sustained the need for advances in other areas, such as payment for services. environmental issues and land regularization. Mourão commands the National Council of the Legal Amazon.

At the time, Mourão was asked if there would be any adjustment in government actions after the subsequent negative results released by Inpe (National Institute for Space Research). "You have to keep the pressure on operations, right? But you also have to advance other aspects, otherwise we can't solve the problem," he said. "The land regularization and payment for environmental services must advance, so that the landowner understands that having 80% of his area preserved will give him a resource annually and will compensate much more than to be illegal and deforesting", said the vice-president.

Debates on the role of environmental services and the regulation of the carbon market were among the topics addressed at the United Nations (UN) climate conference, COP26, held at the end of 2021 in Scotland.There, Brazil committed to end illegal deforestation by 2028.

 Pará asserts it has reduced deforestation in state areas


Regarding the latest reports of deforestation in the Amazon, the Pará State Secretary for the Environment and Sustainability (Semas) has maintained that, according to data from the Real-Time Deforestation Detection System (Deter), from the National Research Institute (Inpe), the State showed a reduction in its deforestation rates in 7 of the 12 months of 2021, in areas under State responsibility, in the period from January to December, when the numbers are compared with those of the previous year. In the accumulated, the decrease is 11% - a reduction of 445.15 km².

According to Semas, the State also presented a 51% reduction in deforestation throughout the State in December, when comparing the data with the same period in 2020. Among the actions carried out by Pará in the fight against deforestation and with a goal of greenhouse gases reduction in Pará, is the Amazônia Viva (Amazon Alive) operation - which concluded its 19th edition, last December, totaling 273,488.23 hectares of embargoed areas due to illegal deforestation. The data from the Amazônia Viva operation add up to results since when it was launched in the state, in June 2020.

Pará also lists other results of the operation: 10,079.70 m³ of wood in logs, seized for illicit exploitation, and seizure of 1,935.76 m³ of sawn wood, also extracted illegally, in addition to 6,521 units of stakes.  355 chainsaws, used to fell trees, and 130 tractors, loaders and excavators used in illegal deforestation were also seized.

According to Semas, 50 tractors, loaders and excavators were found in an area of difficult access and destroyed or disabled. In addition, 141 firearms and 660 ammunition were taken out of circulation. In all, 229 camps were also destroyed and 62 illegal mines interdicted, according to the Pará's environmental secretary.


Plan also aims attention to mankind


Just before COP26 gained worldwide attention, the secretary of environment and sustainability of Pará, Mauro O'de Almeida, took a delegation to Climate Week, in New York, and to Global Citizen Live - an event with concerts by international artists. There, he signed environmental commitments for Pará against climate change. Chris Martin, lead singer of pop group Coldplay, had previously challenged Amazon governors to push for stronger environmental policies.

"We made our commitment, which is to create three protected areas, expand forest management by 25% and achieve carbon neutrality by 2036", reiterated O'de Almeida, at the time, citing the Green Recovery Program, signed by a consortium of governors in the region. Semas' commitments were also signed in meetings with partners and an encounter with Aillen Lee, director of the Environmental Conservation Program of Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, an American institution that supports scientific discoveries and environmental conservation.

"We want an Amazon that gives opportunity to the population, so that it can get out of this unequal dispute for the environment, between surviving and having an environmental agenda. The recovery plan forecasts not only forest restoration, but also opportunities for the population of the Amazon region, almost all of them with low levels of human development, so that it can improve it's life", asserted Almeida.