BRAZIL Environmentalists have consistently raised the demand that urgent steps are needed to protect the Amazon rainforests in Brazil. The significance of their demand is reinforced by a recent study that shows that the forests are being damaged at twice the speed as normally believed. This was revealed in a study that relied on air surveys and on-the-ground interviews instead of satellite images. The researchers said their method more accurately measured the effects of logging and burning in the rain forest's 3.37 million sq km.

"It's perhaps even more frightening,' said Bill Mankin, director of the Global Forest Policy Project of two major environmental groups. "It is going to creep up on us, and people may not even be crafting a solution because they do not realise there is a problem,' he said. The study was carried out by ecologist Daniel Nepstad of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachussets and colleagues at the Institute of Environmental Research in Belem, Brazil. They checked the effect of fires from the air at 1,104 sample points, interviewed 1,393 wood mill operators and 202 landholders. The main tools that measure the extent of deforestation due to logging and fires is missing when the study is done through satellite, according to the researchers.

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