At the Latin America Geospatial Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Volney Zanardi Junior, president of the Brazilian Institute of Envrionment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) presented an overview of IBAMA and some of its initiatives including monitoring and controlling illegal deforestation in the Amazon. Transparency about the state of the environment in Brazil is a key goal of IBAMA. As an example, IBAMA teamed with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) to use satellite imagery to monitor, make public and control deforestation in the Amazon, When the program was initiated in 2004, illegal deforestation was increasing dramatically. The goal of the program was to reduce illegal deforestation by 80%. The program has been successful beyond expectations, and is now six years ahead of schedule in reducing illegal deforestation.
The Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) has conducted a study of the impact of near-real-time monitoring using satellite imagery of illegal deforestation in Brazil's Amazon. In Brazil 80% of the Amazon which originally covered over four million sq km remains with its original vegetation. Amazon deforestation rates accelerated in the early 2000s reaching a peak of over 27,000 sq km in 2004. By 2011 deforestation rates had fallen dramatically to 5,000 sq km. Changes in Brazilian conservation policies, specifically, the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm), has been held responsible for significantly contributed to reducing the rate of deforestation. The objective of the CPI study was to identify Which specific policy efforts contributed most to the reduction in Amazon deforestation. The PPCDAm was the key conservation policy effort of the 2000s. One of the main changes it introduced was the implementation of a satellite-based system that captures and processes georeferenced imagery on forest cover in 15-day intervals called DETER. It was developed by the Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) for the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), which is the national environmental police and law enforcement authority. DETER is capable of detecting deforested areas larger than 25 hectares not covered by clouds.
The image illustrates how deforestation is monitored by DETER. Deforested areas are shown in purple and forest areas in green. For any given location, DETER compares recent images are with older ones to identify changes in forest cover. DETER identifies deforestation hot spots and generates alerts for areas in need of immediate attention by Ibama enforcement personnel. Prior to DETER, deforestation monitoring depended on voluntary and anonymous reports of illegal activity. DETER enabled Ibama to monitor and quickly respond to illegal deforestation activity in near-real-time.
Open data, open source and open standards
The imagery that DETER is based on is open and freely available for download. The software that was developed by INPE and IBAMA for DETER are all free and open source software (FOSS) based on open source image processing libraries and based on open standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium.
Impact of satellite imagery supporting near-real-time monitoring
The CPI study took advantage of the fact that cloud cover inhibited monitoring illegal logging in certain areas of the Amazon. The CPI analysis is based on comparing enforcement activities and deforestation rates in areas with greater cloud cover with areas with less cloud cover. It concluded that Ibama is systematically less present in municipalities with greater cloud cover in any given year and consequently these municipalities exhibit higher deforestation the following year.
The CPI analysis found that indicate that the presence of Ibama enforcement personnel (assumed to be proportional to the number of environmental fines applied in a municipality in a given year) significantly reduced deforestation the following year showing that effective monitoring and law enforcement reduces deforestation.
To quantify this effect, CPI performed two simulations. In the first scenario, it was assumed that the annual number of fines in each municipality from 2007 through 2011 was equal to that observed in 2003, the year before the PPCDAm program was launched. This allowed CPI to compare the rates of deforestation in the absence of PPCDAm with what was actually observed which reflects the PPCDAm program. This simulation suggests that without PPCDAm, the Amazon would have lost over 101,000 sq km to illegal deforestation from 2007 through 2011. The actual deforestation observed during this period was 41,500 sq km. This suggest that the PPCDAm policies conserved 59,500 sq km of the Amazon forest.
In the second simulation, CPI assumed a scenario where there was no monitoring and enforcement in other words no fines were applied in all Amazon municipalities from 2007 through 2011. It is concluded that in the absence of any monitoring and law enforcement, over 164,200 sq km of forest would have been deforested between 2007 through 2011 and that monitoring and enforcement saved more than 122,700 sq km of the Amazon.
CPI makes the case that the adoption of a satellite-based system for real-time monitoring of deforestation and effective targeting of law enforcement activities reduced deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The sheer magnitude of the forest area that was preserved indicates that the relative impact of DETER-based monitoring and law enforcement was far greater than that of other conservation policies implemented under the PPCDAm framework.
CPI also concluded that the policy change had no effect on agricultural production supporting the conclusion that both preservation and economic growth can happen simultaneously.