Deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna hits seven-year high


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SAO PAULO/MONTREAL — Deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna rose to a seven-year high, government data showed on Wednesday, destroying a vital habitat for threatened species and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

Destruction of native vegetation rose 25% to 10,689 square kilometers (4,127 square miles) for the 12 months through July, compared with the previous period, according to a statement from space research agency Inpe – an area larger than Lebanon.

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Reuters first reported on Tuesday the surging destruction of the biome, citing sources. Brazil’s official deforestation statistics run from August to July to minimize clouds obscuring the destruction.

The Cerrado, the world’s most species-rich savanna, has given way to Brazil’s expanding agricultural frontier for decades. Roughly half of the savanna’s vegetation has already been destroyed, with much of it converted to farms and ranches.

Countries at a U.N. COP15 nature summit underway in Montreal aim to strike a deal to protect and reverse the loss of areas rich in biodiversity like the Cerrado. But with the summit set to end on Dec. 19, negotiators still disagree on some 200 points, according to conference documents.

“What we eat and how we produce our food are the main drivers of this large-scale obliteration,” said Jean-Francois Timmers, a policy expert for environmental advocates WWF.

“We need COP15 negotiators to prioritize ending deforestation and conversion in areas where the yearly rate of ecosystem losses prove alarming, like the Cerrado.” (Reporting by Jake Spring and Gloria Dickie Editing by Marguerita Choy)


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