Brazilian deforestation spiked more than 88 percent under President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for development of the country's portion of the Amazon rainforest, Reuters reported Thursday.
The rate of deforestation in the region, the world's largest tropical rainforest at 355 square miles, is 88.4 percent higher this June compared to last year's under Bolsonaro, according to the report.
The preliminary data indicates the country is on track to surpass last year's figures, Reuters reports. Deforestation already reached 1,762 square miles, 15 more more than the previous year, in the first 11 months.
“Bolsonaro has aggravated the situation. ... He has made a strong rhetorical attack,” Paulo Barreto, a researcher at Brazilian nongovernment organization Imazon, told Reuters.
The data comes as Brazil faces growing pressure to enforce environmental protection under free trade deal terms agreed to last week between the European Union and South American block Mercosur, Reuters reports.
Brazil's agriculture minister reportedly said Wednesday the country will take action if deforestation concerns are confirmed.