In the Media
Amazon deforestation: NASA images show the great rainforest disappearing
August 07, 2012
The Huffington Post
As the 2012 Summer Olympics draw worldwide attention on London, a newly released pair of satellite photos highlights a nagging environmental problem for the host of the 2016 Olympics: deforestation of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.
Taken by NASA’s Landsat 1 satellite in 1975 and 2012, the two images reveal dramatic effects of clear-cutting for roads and agriculture in Rondônia, a rural state in western Brazil. This process began with the construction of a major north-south highway in the 1970s, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, followed by secondary roads through dense forest at right angles to the first road. As settlers continued expanding over the decades — first by cutting down trees, then burning ground cover — their merging agricultural tracts took on a “fishbone pattern,” as NASA describes it.
The rate of Amazon deforestation is now much slower than it used to be, having fallen nearly 80 percent since its most recent peak in 2004 (see graph below). Yet roughly 224,000 square miles of the rain forest have still been lost since 1980, including more than 1,000 square miles per year in Rondônia from 1980 to 1992. And according to research by NASA biologist Compton Tucker and Michigan State forestry expert David Skole, deforestation speed isn’t necessarily the most important stat to measure.
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Keywords: Brazil, deforestation, illegal logging, Latin America, Law enforcement