“Brazil almost overnight became an environmental villain when the ecopolitics of the world-system changed in the mid-1980's.”(Barbosa 2000)
The geographic focus: the Brazilian Legal Amazonia
The Amazon tropical rainforest covers approximately 5.5 million km2, of which 60 percent is located in Brazil, where it occupies 3.55 million km2, or nearly 40 percent of the national territory. This area of Brazil is called the North region, and consists of seven states: Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Rondônia, Roraima, Pará, and Goiás/Tocantins.
Legal Amazonia refers to a slightly larger area, including Mato Grosso and parts of Maranhão (see figure 2.1). Legal Amazonia was defined for regional planning purposes, and this region is also the basis of our data set. It covers an area of approximately 5 million km2, or 58 percent of the national territory of Brazil.
Legal Amazonia is by no means a uniform forest biome. Though predominantly a tropical forest region, it comprises a complex mosaic of forests, savannahs, inundated lowlands, and steppes. In terms of major vegetation types, Legal Amazonia is composed of 68.2 percent closed and open dense forest, 3.0 percent seasonal forests, 15 percent savannahs or cerrados, 6.4 percent campinaranas, 2 percent wetlands, and 5.1 percent ecological transition vegetation (May and Reis 1993).
The term “Legal Amazonia” can occasionally cause confusion as it is a politically, rather than ecologically, demarcated region. In fact only about 79 percent of Legal Amazonia would be naturally forested in the absence of human intervention.