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‘Football pitch’ of Amazon forest lost every minute

An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data.

The rate of losses has accelerated as Brazil’s new right-wing president favours development over conservation.

The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.

A senior Brazilian official, speaking anonymously, told us his government was encouraging deforestation.

How is the forest cleared?

Usually by bulldozers, either pushing against the trunks to force the shallow roots out of the ground, or by a pair of the machines advancing with a chain between them.

In one vast stretch of recently cleared land, we found giant trees lying on their sides, much of the foliage still green and patches of bare earth drying under a fierce sun.

Later, the timber will be cleared and sold or burned, and the land prepared for farming.

In other areas, illegal loggers carve new tracks through the undergrowth to reach particularly valuable hardwood trees which they sell on the black market, often to order.

What does this mean for the forest?

Satellite images show a sharp increase in clearances of trees over the first half of this year, since Jair Bolsonaro became president of Brazil, the country that owns most of the Amazon region.

The most recent analysis suggests a staggering scale of losses over the past two months in particular, with about a hectare being cleared every minute on average.