In late April, Science magazine reported that Brazil is a world leader in tropical forest monitoring thanks to their use of data from a number of Earth-observing satellites.
Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (National Institute for Space Research, INPE) uses data from Terra’s MODIS sensor to create weekly alerts of clear-cutting activity. While annually, INPE conducts a survey of deforestation using the higher resolution data of the Landsat and CBERS-2 sensors. And most recently, radar data provided by Japan’s ALOS satellite have helped INPE see areas of forest chronically covered by clouds. Researchers report that field and satellite measurements of clear-cut areas typically agree within 5 to 10 percent. However, substantial uncertainty related to the amount of carbon dioxide released by these clear-cut trees exists (errors on the order of 25% to 50%). Data fusion may eventually help researchers better calculate the carbon emissions associated with clear-cutting over large geographic expanses.
Note: Pioneering work on Brazil’s Amazonian tropical deforestation and its impact on habitat fragmentation was conducted by Drs. Skole and Tucker using Landsat data. Reference can be found below.
For more information:
+ “Improved Monitoring of Rainforests Helps Pierce Haze of Deforestation,” Science, vol. 316, April 27, 2007. (external link)
+ “Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Forest.” Brazilian Embassy. (external link)
+ Skole, D. and C. Tucker, “Tropical Deforestation and Habitat Fragmentation in the Amazon: Satellite Data from 1978 to 1988,” Science, vol. 260, June 25, 1993.
Safeguarding freshwater resources is crucial, and while scientists use a variety of ground-based techniques to gauge water quality, the Landsat program has provided water quality data from orbit for decades.