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Forest loss slows in Brazilian Amazon

Between 2004 and 2009, rate of clearing dropped almost 75 percent

IGUASSU FALLS, Brazil — As of 2008, more than 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest had been cleared for agriculture and other development. But in Brazil the rate of deforestation has dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks to a variety of incentives that may provide a model for other regions.

Recent studies have identified several factors driving deforestation worldwide, reported Ruth S. DeFries, a geographer at Columbia University, on August 9 at the Meeting of the Americas. For the period from 2000 to 2005, two of the main causes were urban population growth and the expansion of large-scale agriculture. Ironically, she noted, population growth in rural areas, where almost all of the world’s remaining forests are located, is relatively stable and doesn’t seem to drive deforestation.

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