Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 11:56 UK

In pictures: On the Amazon frontier

Deforested part of the Amazon seen from the air

A flight over the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows how the Amazon, the world's biggest tropical forest, is being cleared for cattle and crops. Mato Grosso has one of the highest deforestation rates.

Erai Maggi

Erai Maggi, dubbed the king of soya, rejects accusations that farmers like him are environmental vandals. "No tree should be torn down because of soya. We have a lot of space on already deforested land".

Cattle herd in the Amazon region

Cattle ranching is the main culprit in deforestation, accounting for some 70%. Amid rising overseas demand for beef, cattle numbers in the Amazon have more than doubled to 57m since 1990.

Carlos Alberto "Carlito" Guimaraes

Cattle rancher Carlos Alberto Guimaraes has cleared a lot of land since the 1960s for his 40,000 head of cattle. He has no regrets. "I did what a rancher was supposed to do back then."

Lindomar Fonseca da Silva

Cowboy Lindomar Fonseca da Silva works with another man to look after an average of 1,000 head of cattle. Modern ranching techniques require fewer workers. Unemployment adds to local tensions.

Amazon forest

Burning has long been used to clear the Amazon rainforest, especially since people began moving into the region in significant numbers in the 1960s. Sometimes the fires can rage out of control.

Lindomar Jose Moares

The Amazon has long attracted those seeking their own piece of land. Lindomar Jose Moares admits he took an area illegally, but argues that much of the Amazon has no proper land deeds.

Amazon rainforest

The Amazon is also affected by hydro-electric dams. Brazil's growing energy needs mean the dam network is being expanded. Farmers are also building their own small dams to generate their own power.

Indian Chief Sipasse

For local Indian chief Sipasse the dams equal disaster. "You mess with the rivers, you mess with the forest, so you mess with the rain. If you have no rain, you will have no hydro-electric power."

Sebastiao Fonseca dos Santos

Sebastiao Fonseca dos Santos is waiting to be resettled under a government land reform programme. The presence of the landless adds to the tensions between ranchers, land invaders, and Indians.

Amazon rainforest

A patch of freshly opened forest. It could have been the work of a farmer, a rancher, a settler or a land invader. Whoever was responsible, it is yet more forest gone. Photos: Fernando Cavalcanti.

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