(Bloomberg) -- Degradation of the Amazon soared in the first four months of 2024 due to increasing fires and a lack of preventative monitoring, according to Brazilian environmental officials. 

Data from national space agency Inpe showed 7,340 square kilometers (2,834 square miles) of the rainforest were depleted between January and April, up 17 times from the same period last year.

Unlike deforestation, which is the complete removal of native trees, that swath of Brazil suffered partial elimination of vegetation due to burning, mining and logging. A record drought driven by El Nino fueled fires in the region, while officials at top environmental agencies have dramatically reduced field inspections due to a labor dispute. 

“Degraded forests are more susceptible to complete deforestation in the coming months,” Ascema, the national association of environmental officials, said in a study to be published Tuesday. 

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has faced strikes and disruptions across the public service. The government was able reach agreements and end work stoppages in 12 sectors, but there are still another 14 open disputes, according to the Management and Innovation Ministry. Ascema flagged staffing levels as one of the main sticking points for environmental officials, along with salary discrepancies with other federal agencies.

Since January, civil servants have been focusing on internal bureaucratic work instead of field activities, Ascema said. 

Read More: Labor Spat Hurts Lula’s Bid to Boost GDP and Save the Amazon 

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