RIO DE JANEIRO, July 18 — The Brazilian Amazon lost about 18 trees per second in 2021 as deforestation in the country increased by more than 20 per cent, according to a satellite data-based report released today.

The Mapbiomas report said the country lost some 16,557 square kilometres (1.65 million hectares) of indigenous vegetation in 2021 — an area bigger than Northern Ireland.

In 2020, the area lost was 13,789 square kilometres.

Nearly 60 per cent of land deforested in 2021 was in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest, the report said.

"In the Amazon alone, 111.6 hectares per hour or 1.9 hectares per minute were deforested, which is equivalent to about 18 trees per second," according to Mapbiomas, a network of NGOs, universities and technology companies.

Clearing land for farming was the main driver, accounting for almost 97 per cent, it said, with illegal mining also a major factor.

In the last three years, coinciding with the presidency of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, the tree cover lost in Brazil was about 42,000 square kilometres -- "almost the area of the state of Rio de Janeiro," said the report.

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) show that between January and June 2022, the Brazilian Amazon lost 3,988 square kilometres to deforestation.

And government statistics state that average annual Brazilian Amazon deforestation increased by 75 per cent during Bolsonaro's presidency compared to a decade earlier.

Environmentalists accuse Bolsonaro of actively encouraging deforestation for economic gain and of weakening research and protection agencies. — AFP