The disappearing vegetation of Mato Grosso

Literally translated as 'thick vegetation,' the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso has been changed dramatically by the power of major agribusiness, and the forest cover which gave it its name is now largely gone

Environmental auditors in Colniza, Mato Grosso. Photo: Rodrigo Vargas/Folhapress

When the slavers and treasure hunters from São Paulo began their long journeys inland in search of gold and indigenous vassals in the 17th and 18th centuries, they eventually made it to the southern edge of what we know today as the Amazon rainforest. In this vast portion of land in the geographical center of South America, they found untouched wetlands, savanna, and jungle. In what is now known as the Vale do Guaporé, they struck gold amid the dense greenery of the forest.

The expansive region of Mato Grosso (literally meaning ‘thick vegetation’) soon became a Portuguese captaincy and...

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