Improved estimates of forest cover and loss in the Brazilian Amazon in 2000–2017



The data, information and knowledge on the tropical forest area and its dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon remain contentious. We use time-series satellite images to quantify annual forest area, loss and gain in the Brazilian Amazon during 2000–2017. We find that forest area was ~15% higher than the estimate by the official Brazilian forest dataset (PRODES), but annual forest-loss rates were twice the PRODES estimates (~0.027 × 106 km2 yr–1 during 2001–2016). Forest-loss rates increased again after 2013. The El Niño and drought year (2015/2016) drove large forest area loss. The cumulative forest-loss area within the protected areas (which include ~50% of forests in the region) was ~11% of the total forest-loss area, which highlights the roles of protected areas in forest conservation.

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Fig. 1: Spatial distributions of forests in the Brazilian Amazon during 2000−2017.
Fig. 2: Annual dynamics of forest areas in the Brazilian Amazon during 2000−2017.
Fig. 3: State-level forest loss, fire and water storage in the Brazilian Amazon during 2002–2016.
Fig. 4: Forest loss during 2002–2016 in the Brazilian Amazon.
Fig. 5: Annual dynamics of forest areas within PAs and non-PAs in the Brazilian Amazon during 2000–2017.

PAs maps, UN Environment / IUCN (a,b)

Fig. 6: Numbers and frequency of good-quality observations in one year from Landsat 5 TM (LT5), Landsat 7 ETM+ (LE7), LT5 + LE7 and MOD09A1 land surface reflectance in the Brazilian Amazon in 2010.

Data availability

The PALSAR/MODIS forest and MOD100 forest data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request and will be made available to the public. The other datasets are publicly available online (Supplementary Table 6).


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This study is supported in part by research grants from NASA Land Use and Land Cover Change programme (grant no. NNX14AD78G), NASA Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCarb) Mission (GeoCarb Contract no. 80LARC17C0001), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) (grant no. CRN3076), which is supported by the US National Science Foundation (grant no. GEO-1128040) and NSF EPSCoR project (no. IIA-1301789).

Author information




X.X., Y.Q. and J.D. designed the study. Y.Q. and X.X. conducted the analysis with support from J.D., C.B. and F.L. Y.S. and E.A. provided the PRODES forest datasets from the INPE. Y.Q. and X.X. led the writing of the manuscript. R.D., J.D., Y.Z., X.W., J.W., Z.Z., Z.S. and B.M. contributed to the result interpretation and discussion as well as manuscript editing.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xiangming Xiao or Jinwei Dong.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, Supplementary references 1–12, Supplementary Figs. 1–19, Supplementary Tables 1–6

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Qin, Y., Xiao, X., Dong, J. et al. Improved estimates of forest cover and loss in the Brazilian Amazon in 2000–2017. Nat Sustain 2, 764–772 (2019).

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