A survey carried out using satellite images and artificial intelligence from MapBiomas shows that, between 1985 and 2020, the most preserved areas in Brazil are indigenous lands, both already demarcated and those still awaiting demarcation. In these territories, deforestation and forest loss was only 1.6% in 35 years.
“If we want to have rain to supply the reservoirs that supply energy and drinking water to consumers, industry and agribusiness, we need to preserve the Amazon forest. And the satellite images leave no doubt: the indigenous people are the ones who do it best”, explains Tasso Azevedo , Coordinator of MapBiomas.
Despite being the most preserved, only 13.8% of all lands in Brazil are reserved for indigenous peoples, the equivalent of 722 indigenous lands, according to data from the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). Of these, only 487 were approved (when the demarcation process was completed) since 1988 and more than 300 await demarcation.
Jair Bolsonaro’s government is the first, since the redemocratization of Brazil, not to demarcate any indigenous land. In addition, at least two bills have gained traction in Congress since the beginning of his administration, in 2019:
- PL nº 490/2007: institutes the ‘time frame’, determining that the peoples who were occupying them would have the right to their ancestral lands on the day of the promulgation of the Federal Constitution, on October 5, 1988; alters the Indian Statute to allow, according to the text, a “cooperation contract between Indians and non-Indians”, so that they can carry out economic activities in indigenous lands; allows non-indigenous people to have contact with isolated peoples “to mediate state action in the public interest”
- PL nº191/2020: it frees up the exploitation of indigenous lands by large infrastructure and mining projects, making room for research and mining of mineral resources, including oil and natural gas, and for the use of water resources to generate electricity in indigenous lands.
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The survey also looked at the deforestation situation in each state since 1985 and points out that, of the 27 states of the federation, 24 lost native vegetation. The champions are Rondônia (-28%), Mato Grosso (-24%) and Maranhão (-16%), all part of the Legal Amazon.
Only two states have managed to maintain areas of native vegetation since 1985, both in the Southeast region, mainly in the Atlantic Forest: Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, there was a slight growth of native vegetation (from 34% in 1985 to 35% in 2020).
Also according to MapBiomas, pastures represent the main land use in Brazil, occupying a fifth of the national territory.
Speaking of land cover and land use in Brazil, satellite images show that the country has 66.3% of native vegetation. However, MapBiomas warns that the images do not necessarily correspond to preserved areas.
“A significant part [da vegetação nativa] it has gone through a process of degradation or is in regeneration after having been deforested. Therefore, deepening the understanding of these degradation processes is one of the current focuses of MapBiomas”, says Azevedo.
Sugarcane occupies twice the urbanized area of the country
If indigenous territories have remained almost intact in recent decades, the growth in the area occupied by agricultural activities between 1985 and 2020 was 44.6%. Together, agriculture and cattle raising gained 81.2 million hectares in the period.
These activities have grown in five of the six Brazilian biomes, with the exception of the Atlantic Forest, according to MapBiomas. However, even without growth in these 35 years, the agricultural area in the biome is the largest in Brazil, occupying two thirds, or 64.3%, of the Atlantic Forest.
- Brazil has only 12.4% of the original vegetation of the Atlantic Forest
Since 1985, the soy and sugarcane planting area has reached the same extent as the entire rural formation in Brazil. THE soy is already equivalent to a state of Maranhão and the sugarcane occupies twice the urbanized area of the country.
Land use in Brazil — Photo: Roberta Jaworski/G1
The pattern of expansion of agriculture in this period is the advance of pastures over areas of native vegetation while agriculture expands mainly over pasture areas. As a result, the total pasture area stopped growing in the mid-2000s and began to shrink, registering a 4% retraction from 2005 to 2020, after growing 45% between 1985 and 2005.