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Amazon deforestation leads to development 'boom-and-bust'

Study challenges argument that chopping down trees improves economic and social conditions, writes Alok Jha

Source:  Copyright 2009, Guardian
Date:  June 11, 2009
Byline:  Alok Jha
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Chopping down the Amazon rainforest to make way for crops or cattle has no economic or social benefit for local people in the long term, according to a major new study.

The finding undercuts the argument that deforestation, which causes 20% of the globe's greenhouse gas emissions, leads to long-term development.

Conservationists showed communities develop rapidly but temporarily when forests are cleared. But rates of development quickly fall back below national average levels when the loggers move on and local resources near depletion.

More than 155,000 square kilometres of Amazonian rainforest in Brazil have been cleared for timber or burned to make way for agricultural land since 2000. Every year, around 1.8m hectares are destroyed -- a rate of four football fields every minute. The Amazonian rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, guarding against climate change by absorbing CO2 and maintaining geochemical cycles.

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