amazon rainforest CC Eric Pheterson

Brazil is seeing a whole lot of green these days after slashing its rate of Amazonian deforestation by about 90%.

The happy decline began after Brazil became more aggressive in protecting its Amazon basin by creating protected areas in 2004, designating more than half of that land for use in national parks.

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The country also placed a moratorium on highly sought-after soybeans if they were grown on deforested Amazon land. They used satellites to monitor farming and industrial activity, and got more people on the ground to enforce environmental laws. A blog, Conserve, has collected a lot of the detail about how this was accomplished. For example, some multi-national corporations, under pressure to stop the clear-cutting, agreed to throttle back their operations.

As a result, the number of square miles of rainforest cleared in a single year has been reduced from 10,500 in 2005 to 1,850 in 2014.

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Brazil’s impressive performance contributed to a decline in the overall Amazonian deforestation rate so that now the number is one-sixth of what it was in 2004–dropping from its peak of 27,400 square kilometers cleared per year to just 4,800. According to research at Tropical Conservation Science, what has been achieved so far makes it possible to envision the reduction of Amazon deforestation to zero within the next decade.

These stats should help us all breathe easier, since the Amazon rainforest generates about one-fifth of the world’s oxygen.

(READ more in Americas Quarterly — Photo: Eric Pheterson, CC)

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