Until 2004 Paraguay’s rates of deforestation were the highest in all of South America. EOC investigations show an annual decrease in the area covered by the Atlantic Forest averaging 2.2 percent between 1999 and 2004. Strictly prohibiting deforestation has considerably slowed down forest clearing activities since 2004, but satellite-based analyses reveal that large sections of the Paraguay forest are still being destroyed.
An EOC assessment of an extensive time series of data from Landsat satellites shows that between 1999 and 2016 some 7.500 km² of Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest were cut down. This is equivalent to a 28% loss of forest area since 1999. A careful analysis of long-term developments shows high deforestation rates up to 2002, then a drastic increase in logging between 2002 and 2004, followed by an obvious decrease in the rates since 2004. One reason seems to be the passage of Paraguay’s Zero Deforestation Law. After this law was made public — but before it went into effect in 2004 — there was a four-fold increase in deforestation rates. Interviews with forest owners conducted by EOC scientists confirmed the increased forest clearing activities that had been detected in the satellite data. The surveys highlighted that in many cases deliberate clearing was intensified before the strict Zero Deforestation Law was implemented. The analysis shows that deforestation finally slowed down after 2004. Compared with that year, when 230,000 ha of forest area were cleared, forest loss dropped to 60,000 ha in 2016. However, despite strict prohibition of deforestation, the satellite-based analyses show that clearance is still going on in Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest.
The global demand for meat and soy products is a chief reason for cutting down Paraguay’s forests. Since 1940 a total of 90% of the valuable forest ecosystems in the eastern parts of the country have been destroyed. Not only local animal and plant species are threatened when forests are replaced with cropland. Forest ecosystems play an important role in regulating the global climate, and this benefit is likewise lost.
Satellite-based evidence of deforestation in Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest between 1999 and 2016.