This is what deforestation looks like from space…

11 July, 2011 by (comments)

…or rather, different kinds of deforestation.

The first of these shots shows “classic” slash-and-burn agriculture in the Peruvian Amazon. It combines a series of satellite images taken between 1990 and 2000. The coloured clusters depict recently cleared areas of vegetation (purple) and those where vegetation is re-growing (green).

The second image, from Mato Grosso, Brazil, shows vegetation clearance over the same period for large-scale industrial agriculture, one of the main drivers of the arc of deforestation sweeping across the Amazon Basin. You can probably guess what pink means: it’s not good news for forests, or carbon dioxide emissions.

The images come from the MAPAZ software tool, developed by CIAT, and our CGIAR partner centers – the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) – as part of the Amazon Initiative.

MAPAZ is a bit like an ultra-smart Google Earth, allowing users to see and track land-use change in the Amazon, from space. But as well as providing highly detailed satellite images, the software comes with one crucial  extra: users can home-in on areas of their choice, and calculate the opportunity cost of deforestation.

This means simply drawing a selection on the map with a mouse, then MAPAZ calculates the biomass, together with an estimate of the amount of carbon dioxide that would be released into the atmosphere if the land was cleared. This enables users to work out the relative values of clearing different kinds of land, which in turn can help policymakers identify high priority areas for protection.

Pretty nifty. And best of all, it’s free.

For more, click to watch this MAPAZ promotional video.

The MAPAZ tool is being showcased by CIAT scientists this week in San Diego, USA, where they have joined up to 15,000 geographic information systems (GIS) experts at the 2011 International User Conference, organized by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

Within the larger five-day conference, the CGIAR will sponsor sessions on the role and use of GIS technology in analyzing climate change, deforestation, and agriculture.

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Filed Under: Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions