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Jump in Deforestation of World's Most Biodiverse Savanna in Brazil Alarms Scientists

INTERNATIONAL: Deforestation last year rose to the highest level since 2015 in Brazil's Cerrado, prompting scientists on Monday, January 3 to raise alarm over the state of the world's most species-rich savanna. Destruction of trees, grasses and other plants in the Cerrado is a major source of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Cerrado, which is spread across several states of Brazil and is one of the world's largest savannas, is often called an "upside-down forest" because of the deep roots its plants sink into the ground to survive seasonal droughts and fires.

Deforestation and other clearances of native vegetation in the Cerrado rose 8 percent to 8,531 square kilometres in the 12 months through July, Brazil's official period for measuring deforestation, according to national space research agency Inpe.

That is more than ten times the size of New York City's land area.

A major carbon sink that helps to stave off climate change, the biome's destruction is a major source of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions, although it is far less densely forested than the more famous Amazon rainforest that it borders.

Few other places on earth have seen that rapid of a transformation.A new plant and animal species are regularly being discovered in the Cerrado and that many are probably being eradicated before they can be studied.

Deforestation in the Cerrado has been creeping up again since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, calling for more farming and development in sensitive ecosystems.

Bolsonaro's office did not immediately respond to request for comment. He has previously defended his policies as a means to lift the interior of the country out of poverty and pointed out that Brazil has preserved far more of its territory than Europe or the United States.



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