New figures released by the NGO SOS Mata Atlântica suggest there has been a 58% increase in the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, a region rich in biodiversity and endemic species.
The NGO suggested that the majority of the 29,000 hectares deforested in a one year period between 2015 and 2016 was cleared illegally. Deforestation was identified in 16 of the 17 states in which the Atlantic Forest falls, but almost all occurred in just four states: Bahia, Minas Gerais, Paraná and Piauí. All four states are well known for their commercial agricultural or extractive sectors.
Last month six people were arrested during a multi-agency investigation into illegal agriculture in Paraná. SOS Mata Atlântica reported at the time that most large farms inspected had committed some form of illegality.
The state of Bahia saw an increase in deforestation of 207% between 2015 and 2016 alone.
The Director of SOS, Marcia Hirota, reports that experts flying over highly deforested municipalities in the state have identified tracts of land which have been converted to pastures for cattle ranching and ‘cleaned’ for the commercial tree planting sector.
The steep rise in deforestation in the Atlantic biome brings it back to a rate last seen in 2005. This has been attributed in part to a weakening of Brazil’s Forest Code, a move that has widely been regarded as giving impunity to companies illegally occupying forests.