How satellite maps can halt Amazon deforestation

18 June 2014

In the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, a group of scientists have become unconventional crusaders in the battle to halt deforestation. They are the engine behind Imazon, one of the most prolific research groups based in the Amazon.

Imazon is now collaborating with the government of the Brazilian state of Pará to combine real-time satellite imagery and advanced mapping techniques with a system of incentives and penalties to embolden indigenous communities, local governments, and farmers to protect the rainforest.

Until recently, Pará was the epicenter of unchecked rainforest devastation. Known locally for its rural corruption and banditry, the region had been losing 6,255 square kilometers of rich biodiversity annually – an area roughly the size of Delaware. The assault threatened the territory of some of the last untouched tribes in the world, and chipped away at the Amazon’s ability to absorb 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, a critical factor in regulating the earth’s climate cycle.

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