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Plowing Down the Amazon: Satellites reveal conversion of forest to farmland

The clearing of jungle to create cropland is a major and previously underappreciated force behind deforestation of the Amazon region of Brazil, according to an analysis of satellite images. The practice accounts for about one-sixth of recent forest loss in the region.

Most conservationists had assumed that new crop fields in the Amazon region usually spring up on former pasturelands.

The new findings suggest that the international demand for soybeans and other Brazilian crops is driving industrialized farming operations to clear-cut and cultivate large tracts of virgin forest.

A previous study estimated that two-fifths of the country's existing jungle may disappear by 2050 (SN: 4/8/06, p. 221: Available to subscribers at Two-fifths of Amazonian forest is at risk).

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