Brazil vote sparks fears for future of rainforest

Story highlights

  • Brazil has made a dramatic reduction in the rate of deforestation
  • Environmentalists worry that its progress could be put at risk by changes to forest law
  • Greenpeace is also concerned that Indonesia's measures to halt deforestation are not working
  • The World Resources Institute says the world needs consistent, real-time deforestation data
Brazil stands at a crossroads in its efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest, as the government considers controversial legislation governing land use.
For most of the last decade it has made a dramatic reduction in the rate of deforestation -- providing a model of how it could be tackled in other rainforest areas such as Indonesia and Congo.
The Amazon rainforest covers a huge area, roughly half as large as the United States, with around 60% of it in Brazil.
It is estimated that nearly a fifth of the Brazilian forest has been lost since 1970 -- figures from Brazil's space research institute (INPE) show that 4.1 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) of Brazilian forest were still standing in 1970 compared to 3.35 million square kilometers (1.29 million square miles) today.
Like many developing nations, there is pressure on the natural environment from commercial and agriculture interests.