RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — In a far-flung slice of the Brazilian Amazon, a potholed highway cuts hundreds of miles through the heart of the rainforest. In its most rudimentary stretch, it is flanked on both sides by lush forests. But the emerald canopy surrounding the road is disappearing, giving way to cattle pastures at a dizzying speed. The surge in forest destruction — nearly all of it illegal — has mostly been clustered within a handful of municipalities in the southern tip of Brazil’s Amazonas state, near its border with neighboring Rondonia and Mato Grosso, where agriculture is fast replacing forest. This part of Amazonas, some 700 kilometers (434 miles) from the state capital of Manaus, has long been shielded from invasion by its remote location. But there are signs that this may be changing, as land speculators increasingly encroach deeper into the forest. “The municipalities in southern Amazonas — the frontier of the deforestation — are feeling a huge pressure,” said Mariana Napolitano, WWF Brazil’s head of science. In a cycle that is well-known across the Amazon, the forest is giving way to “illegal logging, followed by clearing and burning for pasture, and eventually, the arrival of monoculture,” she said. This area of Brazil is home to a multitude of species, including silky anteaters (Cyclopes didactylus). Image by Quinten Questel via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). The four municipalities leading deforestation in the region — Lábrea, Humaitá, Canutama and Tapauá — together recorded nearly 330,577 tree cover loss…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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