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Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 13:53 GMT
Amazon report is 'flawed futurology'
Amazon forest BBC
The Amazon's future may be brighter than forecast
A scientific report predicting the loss of vast areas of the Amazon forest by 2020 is based on unreliable facts and "ecological futurology", Brazil's science and technology ministry says.

"There is nothing to give scientific grounds for a deforestation projection of 42% in 20 years," the ministry said in a response to research published in the journal Science last week.

We cannot treat the Amazon as an untouchable sanctuary

Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology
A ministry spokesman defended development in the Amazon region, saying: "There is a clear perception by the government that we cannot treat the Amazon as an untouchable sanctuary.

"There are 20 million Brazilians living there."

William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, one of the authors of the Science article, said he was surprised by the ministry's statement, given that key members of the research team behind the article were part of a joint project with Brazil's National Institute of Amazonian Research.

"I don't see how any reasonable person could easily dismiss our findings," he said. Laurance's study used computer models to forecast the impact of a development scheme called "Advance Brazil".

'Highly unlikely'

The Brazilian Embassy in London said the study unfairly projected current rates of deforestation into the future.

"If the same rate of deforestation continues for the next 20 years, which is highly unlikely, taking into account the series of measures in place to protect the forest, the loss would amount to 8% and not 42% as stated in the article," the embassy said.

"The projection by Professor Laurance does not seem to have a sound basis since it takes into account the experience of the last 25 years when none of the different policies now adopted was in place."

Philip Stott, professor of biogeography at the University of London, said there was a widespread myth that the Amazon and other tropical rainforests were about to disappear.

"New research in Brazil suggests that around 87.5% of the previously mapped area of the Amazon remains largely intact and, of the 12.5% that has been deforested, one-third to one-half is fallow or in the process of regeneration," he said.

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