New satellite imaging reveals rainforest devastation

New satellite imaging techniques have revealed that the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed twice as fast as previously thought.

Scientists have discovered that previous satellite photographs of the Amazon have missed a form of surreptitious logging that is equally destructive, but not as apparent from space.

Now a team of American and Brazilian specialists have for the first time been able to assess from space the damage done by “selective logging”, when one or two trees are removed leaving surrounding trees intact.

More on the imaging:

Scientists have been working for eight years to find a way of detecting the large-scale damage caused by selective logging. From this work emerged the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLAS) which processes data from three Nasa satellites. The information is fed into a powerful supercomputer which can spot changing patterns within each image pixel.

“For example, the signals tell us how much green vegetation is in the canopy, how much dead material is on the forest floor and how much bare soil there is,” said Dr Asner [, head of the study]. “Extracting those data has been a Holy Grail of remote sensing. With CLAS, we’ve been able to obtain a spatial resolution of 98ft by 98ft for the Brazilian Amazon Basin. That’s huge.”

I don’t know whether to call this positive technological innovation or not, considering how depressing the findings are.

Click here and here for more info on the Stanford work.

2 Responses to “New satellite imaging reveals rainforest devastation”

  1. liam says:

    It’s interesting that the system is able to determine this, but it also makes me wonder, could the same result be realized with a low-tech look around suspect regions, for less money? I recognize there are probably more political issues to confront with having people on the ground doing this sort of thing, but it seems like a couple of people poking around the fringes would be able to point out that, whoops, those old scary images of deforestation still aren’t telling the whole story.

    At the same time, the system probably originated for some military application somewhere, so I suppose any positive uses are better than none.

  2. sieber says:

    These are vast areas. Obviously, people in communities know what’s going on. But if you want a global scale look at environmental impacts, this is a good, albeit computer-intensive, way to do it.