Mar 02, 2016

Satellite Imagery Reveals Deforestation in the Amazon

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Over the past 15 years, satellite imagery has revealed that deforestation has been increasing at an unprecedented rate in the Peruvian Amazon. According to the Environment Ministry of Peru, the high rates of deforestation are attributable to the rise of agroindustrial crops such as coffee, cacao and African palm oil. These ‘cash crops’ are transforming the Amazon rainforest, impacting the local climate, water cycle and biodiversity. Satellite imagery has been used to produce valuable maps which reveal the ‘hotspots’ where this deforestation is occurring and where the effects are likely to be most prominent.

These maps show how the deforested areas are closely correlated to regions where large-scale plantations have already been established, thus showing how agroindustrial crop managers are expanding their operations. The Peruvian government are actively demonstrating an awareness of climate change, especially with protecting the Amazon rainforest, though the trend in local government appears to disagree.

Peruvian law forbids private ownership of the public forest, though recently, permits for forest land parcels have been awarded to the agriculture industry. Coupled with poor law enforcement and possible corruption, the local authorities are effectively promoting unsustainable deforestation.

The indigenous people have gathered to form an opposition to this movement, using satellite imagery as their evidence. The area of San Martin lost 24,300 hectares of forest between 2010 and 2014, and the total loss in Peru was larger than the state of Rhode Island in the US, deemed unacceptable by the local population.

In light of these findings, Peru has received $300 million of pledges from Norway and Germany to improve its forest management, with the goal of achieving a ‘net zero’ deforestation by 2021. Curbing the deforestation of our rainforests is of global importance, as they are critical in the fight against human-induced climate change. Satellite imagery has proved once again to be vital, helping the Peruvian government understand the gravitas of their current situation.

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