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Brazil: deforestation jumps in world’s largest savanna as scientists raise alarm

Published: 10th Jan, 2022


Deforestation last year rose to the highest level since 2015 in Brazil’s Cerrado, prompting scientists to raise alarm over the state of the world’s most species-rich savanna and a major carbon sink that helps to stave off climate change.


  • In 2010, the world had 3.92 Global Hectare (Gha) of tree cover, extending over 30 per cent of its land area. In 2020, it lost 25.8 Mha of tree cover.
  • Nearly 31% of the Earth’s total land area currently constitutes forests, that spans over 15.68 million square miles (40.6 million km²).
  • But in last thirty years, more than 4% (685,300 square miles) of it has been lost that is equal to half the size of India.


What is Deforestation?

  • Deforestation refers to the cutting, clearing, and removal of rainforest or related ecosystems into less biodiverse ecosystems such as pasture, cropland, or plantations.
  • Major reasons of deforestation include:
    • Changing weather pattern  
    • Logging
    • Mining
    • Oil and gas extraction
    • Cattle ranching
    • Agriculture: Cash crops
    • Local, National, and International factors: development, land titles, civil wars, debt, lack of resources, and lack of law enforcement

What are the consequences of deforestation?

  • Environmental:
    • Loss of biodiversity, extinction (microbes (bacteria), plants, insects, animals, indigenous peoples, etc.) 
    • Habitat fragmentation: This can further lead to many problems such as territorial conflicts, homelessness (loss of habitat), lack of food availability, migration disturbances, etc.
    • Degradation: It leads to soil erosion and loss of ecosystem. 
  • Changes in watershed geomorphology
  • Desertification (dry, hot, arid conditions)
  • Climate change: Deforestation simply lead to release of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus increasing the effects of global warming.
  • Pollution (ground, water and air pollution)
  • Social impacts:
    • Displacement of people (loss of farmland, forest resources, etc).
    • Loss of culture 
    • Social conflicts and struggles over land and natural resources.
    • Conflicts over racial and ethnic rights.
    • Poisoning from oil and mining waste.
    • Economic uncertainty 

What is Brazil’s Cerrado?

  • The Cerrado is the world’s largest savanna spread across several states of Brazil.
  • It is a vast, tropical savannah stretching diagonally up through the middle of Brazil that covers 2 million sq km, around 22% of the country, as well as parts of Bolivia and Paraguay.
  • The biodiversity-rich Cerrado has 11,620 plant, 1,200 fish and 837 fish species and its 200 mammals include jaguars, anteaters, rhea birds and tapirs
  • It is often called an “upside-down forest” because of the deep roots its plants sink into the ground to survive seasonal droughts and fires.

How is the region’s landscape changing?

  • Over half of its landscape – grassland scrub and dry forest – has been converted to agriculture as it produces soya for China, Europe and other markets. 
  • The region lost 105,000 square kilometres of native cover from 2008-2018, i.e., 50% more than the Amazon, which has more legal protection. 

Deforestation in India

  • India reported about 0.38 per cent of annual growth in forest, and saw an increase of about 4,000sq km of forest between 2017 and 2019. 
  • However, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has impacted about 0.67 per cent of global forests, according to the Global Forest Watch Report. 
  • During this period, India lost about 38,500ha of tropical forest in 2019-2020. 
  • At present, 24.56 per cent of the geographical land is under forest cover. Still, India is unlikely to reach its goal to cover up to 33 per cent of land under forest cover.

ConclusionDeforestation to make way for economic development is a trade-off that the world cannot afford in the wake of the current climate crisis. Forest conservation needs to be prioritised above short-term economic gains from diamond mines, development projects and tiger safaris.


  • Savannas are a transitional biome, not really a forest and not really a desert – just somewhere in between. 
  • This habitat is home to many different species of plants and animals around the world.
  • The savanna biome, which is a type of grassland biome, consists of areas of open grassland with very few trees. There are two kinds of savannas: 
    • Tropical Savannas 
    • Semi-tropical Savannas

India pledged to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2070 at the 2021 Conference of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow. 

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