The Amazonas State, which lies in western Brazil, is the nation’s largest by area, and is almost completely covered by the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil reports an 84 percent reduction in Amazon deforestation, but this image from the European Space Agency’s Envisat radar paints a decidedly less promising picture: each vibrant cluster and brightly colored line represents an area of deforestation since 2005.
The image is compiled of three radar images taken by the ESA over the town of Boca do Acre, which sits within Amazonas State. The ESA explains that the images were “acquired on 28 October 2005, 12 September 2008 and 17 September 2010. The individual images are each assigned a colour – red, green and blue – and when combined, reveal changes in the surface between Envisat’s passes.”
These changes create patterns that show geometric plots of once lush rainforest carved out along linear paths in the city — areas of vital canopy chopped down within the past eight years. While others, notably Google and Landsat, have been using satellite imaging to track deforestation in the Amazon, the ESA believes their technique is particularly accurate.
“Given its size and frequent cloud cover, remote sensing using radar images is the best way to study the Amazon Basin on a large scale, especially for assessing the extent and damage due to deforestation. Radars can observe during both day and night and through any weather conditions.”
Such accurate documentation is likely to prove helpful to the Brazilian government as efforts continue to slow deforestation across the Amazon. While the government proudly reported a drastic reduction in deforestation earlier this year, the evidence suggests that the trend is reversing as Brazil’s political leaders lag in their efforts to enforce a “forestry code” that will, among other things, involve replanting an area that is “roughly the size of Italy.”