Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to 291 square miles (754 square kilometres) between November 2008 and January 2009, reports Mongabay.com.
This was a drop of 70% when compared to the same period 12 months earlier, said Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc.
A decrease in forest clearing had been expected.
Economic turmoil, which has reduced the availability of credit, and collapsing commodity prices (especially beef and soy) had undermined the main drivers of deforestation.
Mr Minc also credited government efforts, including increased vigilance and new loan policies, for the decline.
The data is based on Brazil’s Real-time Detection of Deforestation (DETER) system for tracking deforestation.
DETER is an alert system that updates IBAMA (Brazil’s environmental protection agency) with deforestation information, theoretically allowing authorities to attack illegal deforestation as it occurs.
However, the system requires on-the-ground follow up action, something that is difficult consider the poor land titling and political conflict between federal and regional authorities.
However, Brazil is developing an advanced satellite, which is called Amazon-1, that will use cloud-penetrating technology to allow more detailed monitoring of the Amazon.
Nearly 20% of the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for about 60% of the world’s largest rainforest, has been destroyed since the early 1970s, but deforestation has slowed significantly since 2004.
Last year, the Brazilian government announced an ambitious plan to cut deforestation rates to 5,600 square kilometres (2150 sq mi) per year by 2014 in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Deforestation presently accounts for two-thirds of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.
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