Native vegetation loss monitoring in Brazilian Biomes

By Flora Martins, IUCN CEM Young Professional.

The monitoring of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon carried out by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) is well known. Through the Gross Amazon Deforestation Monitoring Project, PRODES, INPE has developed an effective methodology that provides consistent annual data on deforestation at the scale of 1: 250,000 since 1988. The good news is that this initiative now extends to other Brazilian biomes. Since 2015, the “Brazilian Biomes Environmental Monitoring Program”, from the Ministry of the Environment started to ensure greater efficiency in monitoring deforestation, land cover and land use, selective logging, fire occurrence and recovery of native vegetation.

Thanks to the Amazon Fund/BNDES, INPE and the Foundation for Science, Technology and Space Applications (FUNCATE) together obtained resources to develop the “Environmental Monitoring of Brazilian Biomes Project”. The Project aims for (i) the development and enactment of deforestation monitoring systems for the Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Pampa and Pantanal biomes; (ii) estimating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with deforestation and Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) definition (together with the Brazilian Ministry of Environment) for REDD+ policy purposes.

The total extent of Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Pampa e Pantanal biomes in Brazil reaches 2.2 million square kilometres (~25% of the national territory). Monitoring the native vegetation loss in these regions covers forest and non-forest phytophysiognomies. The land cover change detection is based on the analysis of spatial and temporal aspects, like colour, shape, shadow, texture, colour tonality and context (both spatial and temporal descriptors). The whole processes of deforestation detection and mapping are conducted using TerraAmazon, developed by INPE and FUNCATE. We use multispectral and medium resolution satellite products – mainly Landsat images – for visual interpretation and manual mapping, which results in high accuracy.

In December 2020, we provided an overview of the evolution of this methodology, the key processes to produce accurate deforestation maps during the last 30 years and the new challenges that the Project would face, which I invite you to read here. A central lesson is that no computational technique has, to date, been able to achieve the quality of deforestation maps produced by visual interpretation of satellite images and manual mapping. All the resulting maps from PRODES (all biomes) can be acquired through the TerraBrasilis platform. More details about the Project can be found here.


Ms Flora Martins is a GIS Specialist at FUNCATE, where she’s the executive coordinator of the deforestation monitoring for the Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Pampa and Pantanal biomes, as well as the aspects of emission estimates for FREL.

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