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Deforestation by burning trees in the Amazon rainforest releases 200 million metric tonnes of gas into the atmosphere every year, according to scientists from Brazilian and US universities. This brings Brazil's total greenhouse gas emissions — including those from burning fossil fuels — to 550 million tonnes, and places Brazil on the list of top ten greenhouse gas emitters worldwide.

Meteorologists from the National Institute for Space Research say that although Brazil's volume of emissions is far smaller than that of the main polluting countries, it is significant because it is not contributing to economic or social development.

Scientists estimate that 20 per cent of the four million sq km Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming, with 14,754 sq km deforested in 2003 alone. Brazil, the world's fifth largest country, is thought to have the greatest biodiversity on Earth.

Link to full BBC Online news story