Satellite Used to See Atlantic Forest for the Trees in Brazil

• Rio de Janeiro state launches ambitious program to end illegal deforestation in the Atlantic Forest by 2018
• State will weekly analyze real-time satellite images to spot illegal deforestation and dispatch teams to arrest and fine violators
By Michael Kepp
The Rio de Janeiro State Environment Secretariat is using satellite images to detect illegal deforestation in the Atlantic Forest, Brazil’s most degraded and endangered biome before sending out field teams to verify findings and arrest or fine violators.
Under the Project Green Eye, launched June 23 in partnership with the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, the secretariat is analyzing near real-time satellite images of some 7,000 square kilometers (2,703 square miles) of the Atlantic Forest every week. It’s then cross-checking those images with its environmental licensing data bank to pinpoint areas that likely have been illegally cleared. It will spend 700,000 reais ($212,000) annually on the project.
Cattle ranchers and farmers often clear forest illegally for more pasture and crop lands, and the state has set fines of at least 50,000 reais per hectare for illegal cutting.
Previously, the Atlantic Forest area was monitored by satellites annually for forest loss, while field teams were dispatched based on citizen tips and complaints, Rafael Ferreira, assistant secretary for climate change and environmental management at State Environment Secretariat, told Bloomberg BNA June 27.
The environment agency launched the project after the Atlantic Forest deforestation rate jumped 58 percent between 2015 and 2016—the biggest annual increase in the past 10 years, according to a June report by the Brazilian nonprofit SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation.
“It is a pioneer project because neither the federal government or any other state governments do this type of near real-time analysis of the Atlantic Forest,” Ferreira said.
The Atlantic Forest, a tropical and subtropical woodland that runs through 17 coastal states, has dwindled to 12.5 percent of its original.

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