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News articles on Satellite Imagery

Mongabay.com news articles on Satellite Imagery in blog format. Updated regularly.









Laser-based forest mapping as accurate for carbon as on-the-ground plot sampling

(11/02/2011) Two new research papers show that an advanced laser-based system for forest monitoring is at least as accurate as traditional plot-based assessments when it comes to measuring carbon in tropical forests.


Breakthrough technology enables 3D mapping of rainforests, tree by tree

(10/24/2011) High above the Amazon rainforest in Peru, a team of scientists and technicians is conducting an ambitious experiment: a biological survey of a never-before-explored tract of remote and inaccessible cloud forest. They are doing so using an advanced system that enables them to map the three-dimensional physical structure of the forest as well as its chemical and optical properties. The scientists hope to determine not only what species may lie below but also how the ecosystem is responding to last year's drought—the worst ever recorded in the Amazon—as well as help Peru develop a better mechanism for monitoring deforestation and degradation.


Brazil: Amazon deforestation higher than initially stated

(10/09/2011) Brazil revised upward its estimate of how much Amazon rainforest was destroyed last year, reports the Associated Press.


Amazon deforestation up moderately in August, but forest degradation falls

(09/22/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to be slightly higher than this time last year, reports a new bulletin from Imazon, a Brazilian NGO.


62% of deforested Amazon land ends up as cattle pasture

(09/04/2011) 62 percent of the area deforested in the Brazilian Amazon until 2008 is occupied by cattle pasture, reports a new satellite-based analysis by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and its Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa).


Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon up moderately over last year

(08/24/2011) Deforestation in the Amazon jumped sharply in some Brazilian states since last year, according to data released in recent weeks by Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that tracks deforestation. Overall deforestation rose 15 percent to 1,532 km2 in the August 2010 through June 2011 period relative to the same months a year earlier, reports Imazon.


Palm oil, paper drive large-scale destruction of Indonesia's forests, but account for diminishing role in economy, says report

(07/27/2011) Indonesia's forests were cleared at a rate of 1.5 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2009, reports a new satellite-based assessment by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), an NGO. Expansion of oil palm and wood-pulp plantations were the biggest drivers of deforestation, yet account for a declining share of the national economy. The study, which compared year 2000 data with 2009 Landsat images from NASA, found that Indonesia's forest cover declined from 103.32 million hectares to 88.17 million hectares in ten years. Since 1950 Indonesia lost more than 46 percent of its forests.


NASA image shows it snowing in driest place on earth

(07/20/2011) A snowstorm engulfed parts of the driest place on earth this month: the Atacama desert in South America. Images captured by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on Terra Satellite show parts of the landscape covered in white.


Amazon drought and forest fire prediction system devised

(07/18/2011) Researchers have devised a model to anticipate drought and forest fires in the Amazon rainforest.


Indonesia's new forest moratorium map improved, say experts

(07/13/2011) The latest version of Indonesia's forest moratorium map is much improved over its predecessor, say forestry analysts from Daemeter Consulting.


REDD calculator and mapping tool for Indonesia launched

(07/13/2011) Researchers have launched a new tool to help policy-makers, NGOs, and landowners evaluate the potential benefits and costs of Indonesia's reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) program at provincial and district levels.


Brazilian government: Amazon deforestation rising

(06/30/2011) Satellite data released today by the Brazilian government confirmed a rise in Amazon deforestation over this time last year.


Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon continues to rise; clearing highest near Belo Monte dam site

(06/17/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continued to rise as Brazil's Congress weighed a bill that would weaken the country's Forest Code, according to new analysis by Imazon.


South Sudan’s tropical forests fast disappearing

(06/06/2011) South Sudan’s tropical montane forests are fast disappearing according to new analysis by PRINS Engineering. At current rates, Mount Dongotomea, located in South Sudan’s most biodiverse ecosystem, could be completely stripped of tree cover by 2020.


Indonesia's moratorium map has errors, says government

(06/03/2011) The map underpinning Indonesia's moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and peatlands is "inaccurate", an Indonesian forestry official told The Jakarta Post.


New technology enables scientists to map rainforest biodiversity by airplane

(06/02/2011) A new airplane-based remote-sensing and analysis system will enable scientists to catalog tree species as they create three-dimensional maps of tropical forests. Unveiled today at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California by Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, the newest version of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) will offer powerful insights into the composition and biology of tropical forests.


New global carbon map for 2.5 billion ha of forests

(05/31/2011) Tropical forests across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia stored 247 gigatons of carbon — more than 30 years' worth of current emissions from fossil fuels use — in the early 2000s, according to a comprehensive assessment of the world's carbon stocks. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of scientists, used data from 4,079 plot sites around the world and satellite-based measurements to estimate that forests store 193 billion tons of carbon in their vegetation and 54 billion tons in their roots structure. The study has produced a carbon map for 2.5 billion ha (6.2 billion acres) of forests.


Destruction of Brazil's most endangered forest, the Mata Atlantica, slows

(05/27/2011) Deforestation of Brazil's most threatened forest ecosystem dropped substantially during the 2008-2010 period according to new data released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica. Analysis of satellite images across 16 of the 17 states the Atlantic Forest spans found that 312 square kilometers of forest was cleared between 2008 and 2010, down from 1,029 square kilometers between 2005 and 2008. Deforestation was concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Santa Catarina and Parana.


Authorities launch stealth operation in Amazon after satellite images reveal deforestation

(05/24/2011) Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency busted an illegal logging ring following analysis of satellite imagery, reports Globo.


Brazil confirms big jump in Amazon deforestation

(05/18/2011) New data from the Brazilian government seems to confirm environmentalists' fears that farmers and ranchers are clearing rainforest in anticipation of a weakening of the country's rules governing forest protection. Wednesday, Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE) announced a sharp rise in deforestation in March and April relative to the same period last year. INPE's rapid deforestation detection system (DETER) recorded 593 square kilometers of forest clearing during the past two months, a 473 percent increase over the 103.5 sq km chopped down from March-April 2010.


Huge surge in Amazon deforestation

(05/17/2011) Analysis by Imazon, a research institute, has confirmed a huge surge in deforestation in a critical part of the Brazilian Amazon.


Information leak: Amazon deforestation increases sharply while forest code debated

(05/16/2011) Deforestation has increased sharply in Mato Grosso over the past nine months according to information leaked to Folha.com.


Google Earth animation reveals Indonesian forest targeted for destruction by pulp and paper companies

(05/14/2011) A new animation created using Google Earth offers a tour of an area of forest slated for destruction by logging companies. The animation, created by WWF-Indonesia and David Tryse, with technical assistance from Google Earth Outreach, highlights the rainforest of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape in Sumatra, the only island in the world that is home to Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans. All of these species are considered endangered or critically endangered due to habitat destruction or poaching.


Forest carbon map released for the US

(04/20/2011) The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) has released the first hectare-scale map displaying aboveground woody biomass and forest carbon in US forests. The map, which also shows canopy heights, is known as the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD).


NASA image reveals extent of 2010 Amazon drought

(04/17/2011) NASA has revealed a satellite image of the crippling effect of last year's record-breaking drought on the Amazon ecosystem. For those of you counting, that's two record droughts in the Amazon Basin in 5 years.


Pictures: Google Earth updates post-tsunami imagery

(03/31/2011) Google Earth has updated satellite imagery for areas most affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The images reveal large-scale devastation of coastal areas in the Sendai region of Japan.


Amazon deforestation flat since last year

(03/23/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is roughly flat for the 7 months ended February 28 relative to the same period last year, reports Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.


Using Google Earth to monitor threats to archeological sites

(03/16/2011) A new alert system uses Google Earth and other satellite-based tools to protect cultural heritage sites from fire, looting, encroachment, destructive tourism, and other threats, says the Global Heritage Fund, the group that launched the initiative.


Before-and-after tsunami satellite pictures

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation caused by the March 11 tsunami in Japan.


First large-scale map of oil palm plantations reveals big environmental toll

(03/07/2011) Expansion of industrial oil palm plantations across Malaysia and Indonesia have laid waste to vast areas of forest and peatlands, exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions and putting biodiversity at risk, reports a new satellite-based analysis that maps mature oil palm estates across Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra.


Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra lose 9% of forest cover in 8 years

(02/25/2011) Kalimantan and Sumatra lost 5.4 million hectares, or 9.2 percent, of their forest cover between 2000/2001 and 2007/2008, reveals a new satellite-based assessment of Indonesian forest cover. The research, led by Mark Broich of South Dakota State University, found that more than 20 percent of forest clearing occurred in areas where conversion was either restricted or prohibited, indicating that during the period, the Indonesian government failed to enforce its forestry laws.


Monitoring deforestation: an interview with Gilberto Camara, head of Brazil's space agency INPE

(02/08/2011) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the world's best deforestation tracking system is found in the country with the most rainforest: Brazil. Following international outcry over immense forest loss in the 1980s, Brazil in the 1990s set in motion a plan to develop a satellite-based system for tracking changes in forest cover. In 2003 Brazil made the system available to the world via its web site, providing transparency on an issue that was until then seen as a badge of shame by some. Since then Brazil has become recognized as the standard-bearer for deforestation tracking and reporting—no other country offers the kind of data Brazil provides. Space engineer Gilberto Camara has overseen much of INPE's earth sensing work and during his watch, INPE has released several new exciting capabilities.


Burning up biodiversity: forest fires increase in Madagascar

(01/10/2011) The number of fires burning in and around forests in the northeastern part of Madagascar increased during the 2010 burning season relative the the year before, according to analysis of NASA data by WildMadagascar.org / Mongabay.com. The rise in burning corresponds to an especially dry year and continued illegal logging of the region's biologically-rich rainforests.


Environmental atlas highlights human impact in Latin America and Caribbean

(12/28/2010) A new atlas produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) combines striking satellite images and rigorous data to present a unique and complex view of environmental changes taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Satellite data reveals fires in region plagued by illegal logging in Madagascar

(12/27/2010) New satellite data reveals active burning in Sava, a region in Madagascar that has been ravaged by illegal logging for rosewood and other valuable rainforest timber.


Map: 15 million sq km of land suitable for forest restoration

(12/22/2010) 1.5 billion hectares (5.8 million square miles) of land are suitable for forest restoration, according a new analysis by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, a partnership between the World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, and IUCN.


Brazil to help African, Asian countries in satellite-based forest monitoring

(12/03/2010) Brazil will provide technical assistance to help tropical countries improve their forest monitoring capabilities, according to an official with the South American country's satellite agency.


2,700 sq km of Brazil's most endangered rainforest destroyed in 8 years

(12/03/2010) 270,000 hectares of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil's most threatened ecosystem, was cleared between 2002 and 2008, reports a new assessment by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA). Less than 8 percent of the Atlantic forest—famed for its biodiversity—remains.


NASA images reveal disappearing mangroves worldwide

(12/01/2010) In August, NASA and the US Geological Survey released the first-ever satellite analysis of the world's mangrove ecosystems. What they found was dire: mangroves covered 12.3% less area than previously estimated. Now, NASA has released images of the world's mangrove ecosystems (see below), which currently cover 137,760 square kilometers. Yet this number keeps shrinking: mangroves are vanishing rapidly due to rising sea levels, deforestation for coastal developments, agriculture and aquaculture.


Pulp plantations destroying Sumatra's rainforests

(11/30/2010) Indonesia's push to become the world's largest supplier of palm oil and a major pulp and paper exporter has taken a heavy toll on the rainforests and peatlands of Sumatra, reveals a new assessment of the island's forest cover by WWF. The assessment, based on analysis of satellite imagery, shows Sumatra has lost nearly half of its natural forest cover since 1985. The island's forests were cleared and converted at a rate of 542,000 hectares, or 2.1 percent, per year. More than 80 percent of forest loss occurred in lowland areas, where the most biodiverse and carbon-dense ecosystems are found.


Google Earth now features 3-D trees

(11/29/2010) With world leaders meeting at climate talks in Cancun to discuss the future of forests, Google has added 3D trees to the latest version of Google Earth. Google has populated several major cities with more than 80 million virtual trees based on an automated process that identifies trees in satellite images. The realistic 3D representations are based on actual tree species found in urban areas. But Google has also extended realistic tree coverage to sites in some of the world's most biologically diverse forests.


Belize lost 10,000 ha of forest per year since 1980

(11/07/2010) Forests in Belize have been cleared at a rate of nearly 10,000 hectares per year for the past 30 years, a recent study shows. In 1980, forests covered 79.5% of the land surface of Belize but as of February 2010 it had decreased to 62.7%. The area covered by forests in the country thus went from about 6500 square miles 30 years ago to around 5300 square miles today, losing an area the size of Rhode Island.


Deforestation falls, but rainforest damage surges in Brazil in Sept

(11/06/2010) Despite the worst drought on record in the region, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during September fell by 20 percent relative to September 2009, reports Imazon, a research institute that provides monthly updates on forest clearing.


Already Critically Endangered, bluefin tuna hit hard by BP oil disaster

(10/19/2010) Using satellite data from the European Space Agency, researchers estimate that over 20% of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico were killed by the BP oil spill. Although that percentage may not seem catastrophic, the losses are on top of an 82% decline in the overall population over the past three decades due to overfishing. The population plunge has pushed the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorize the fish as Critically Endangered, its highest rating before extinction.


Satellites show fragmented rainforests significantly drier than intact forest

(10/13/2010) A new study in Biological Conservation has shown that edge forests and forest patches are more vulnerable to burning because they are drier than intact forests. Using eight years of satellite imagery over East Amazonia, the researchers found that desiccation (extreme dryness) penetrated anywhere from 1 to 3 kilometers into forests depending on the level of fragmentation.


Brazil to launch new deforestation monitoring system that 'sees' through clouds

(10/11/2010) Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.


Free availability of satellite imagery has boosted deforestation monitoring applications, but risk of data gap looms

(09/29/2010) In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of satellite-based monitoring applications and technologies, which is perhaps best exemplified in the eyes of the public by Google Earth, which allows anyone with a decent internet connection to view overhead images of nearly any place on Earth. But these new applications are also helping scientists more effectively monitor environmental change, including the fluctuations in polar sea ice, shifts in oceanic plankton, and deforestation. An important factor in the expanded use of satellite imagery has been the U.S. government's free Landsat Data Distribution Policy, which allows free or inexpensive access to data captured by Landsat satellites, which have been collected data on a regular basis since 1972. But the Landsat program is not presently operating at its full capacity, increasing the risk of a 'data gap' before a new system is in place in 2012.


Peru's rainforest highway triggers surge in deforestation, according to new 3D forest mapping

(09/06/2010) Scientists using a combination of satellite imagery, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys to create three-dimensional high resolution carbon maps of the Amazon rainforest have documented a surge in emissions from deforestation and selective logging following the paving of the Trans-Oceanic Highway in Peru. The study, published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that selective logging and other forms of forest degradation in Peru account for nearly a third of emissions compared to deforestation alone.


NASA: surge in Amazon fires

(08/31/2010) The number of fire hotspots has surged in the Bolivian and Brazilian parts of the Amazon, reveals data and imagery from NASA.


Amazon deforestation falls significantly in 2010, according to preliminary data

(08/31/2010) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down significantly since last year, according to preliminary estimates released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO that tracks forest loss and degradation across the Amazon. Analysis of NASA MODIS data by Imazon found some 1,488 square kilometers of forest were cleared during the 12 months ended July 31, 2010, down 16 percent from the same period last year, when 1,766 square kilometers were deforested. Meanwhile analysis by INPE shows an even steeper drop from 4,375 square kilometers in August 2008 through July 2009 to 2,296 square kilometers in the current period, a decline of 48 percent. The discrepancy between INPE's and Imazon's estimates results from differences in how deforestation is tracked.



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