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Does Sugarcane Threaten the Amazon?

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Destruction of rain forests and their fragile ecosystems in Brazil is a serious and widely-recognized problem, but sugarcane is not the culprit. Most sugarcane (90 percent) cultivated for ethanol production is harvested in South-Central Brazil, more than 1,500 miles away from the Amazon. The rest (10 percent) is grown in Northeastern Brazil, over 1,000 miles from the Amazon’s eastern-most fringe. To compare these distances using American cities, if the heart of the Amazon were located in Dallas, then most sugarcane cultivation would occur in New York City. [Read more]

Use the map below to explore where cane is grown, and how that relates to the location of the rainforest.

About the Plantations

The plantation data was provided by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Remote Sensing Division (DSR), and derived from LANDSAT 5 imagery, as described in Studies on the Rapid Expansion of Sugarcane for Ethanol Production in São Paulo State (Brazil) Using Landsat Data.

For more precise analysis of this data, see CANASAT.

Cane fields are classified how recently they have been planted or reformed

Ratoon Cane
Sugarcane available for harvest after one or more cuts
Fields that are now being cultivated with sugarcane and will be available for harvest for the first time.
Fields that have undergone renovation during the previous crop year, and will be available for harvest in the current crop year.
Under renovation
Fields that were cultivated with sugarcane during the previous crop years but are being renewed or replaced by another land use this year. If and when these fields are returned to cane production, they will be referred to as "renovated".

About the Study Area

There are cane plantations outside of the study area, but these are also quite distant from the rainforest, as you can see here.

About the Rainforest Data

"Intact Forest" means an unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, showing no signs of sgnificant human activity, and large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained. Intact Forest data has been made available for free by the IFL Mapping Team:

Potapov P., Yaroshenko A., Turubanova S., Dubinin M., Laestadius L., Thies C., Aksenov D., Egorov A., Yesipova Y., Glushkov I., Karpachevskiy M., Kostikova A., Manisha A., Tsybikova E., Zhuravleva I. 2008. Mapping the World's Intact Forest Landscapes by Remote Sensing. Ecology and Society, 13 (2)

copyright 2010 Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association