Brazil deforestation falls from May but posts monthly record

RIO DE JANEIRO — Preliminary data from Brazil’s government released on Friday showed Amazon deforestation in June fell from the prior month, counter to the trend seen in the period over the last several years.

The area deforested in June, based on satellite images, dropped 24% compared to May, according to daily alerts compiled by the National Institute for Space Research’s Deter monitoring system. It’s only the second time in six years there has been less forest loss in June than May.

However, the 1,062 square kilometers (410 square miles) deforestation represented a slight year-on-year increase and still marked the worst destruction for any month of June since the 2015-2016 start of the data series.

Deter data is considered a reliable leading indicator for more complete calculations released at yearend.

The data comes as foreign investors and the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden watch closely to see if Brazil can manage to rein in deforestation. President Jair Bolsonaro in late June signed a decree to dispatch Brazilian soldiers to the rainforest after withdrawing them in April. His vice president, Hamilton Mourão, who leads Brazil’s Amazon Council, on Wednesday expressed hope redeploying the troops could help turn the tide — although environmental groups have said they had little impact over past two years.

“We have to get to the end of July with a reduction there of some 1,000 square kilometers of deforestation,” Mourão told reporters, referring to the 12-month tally that concludes in July. “That is our objective and it is a feasible objective.”

The annual deforestation tally, compiled with a more accurate system called Prodes, uses at least four different satellites to capture images. This helps to eliminate error caused by cloud cover in the satellite images of the monthly preliminary data.

The Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofits, said the preliminary June data already signals deforestation for the 12-month period between August 2020 and July 2021 will surpass 10,000 square kilometers for the third straight year, which hadn’t occurred since 2008. That’s about double the size of Delaware.

Last month, Bolsonaro’s environment minister stepped down amid investigations into his alleged involvement facilitating the export of illegally felled timber.