Forest Monitoring Has Reached a New Level in Brazil

September 01, 2016 3 min read

Brazil Deforestation

The 2016 Summer Olympics have come and gone.  While the metal count and winning teams will be talked about for weeks to come, an important message on the environment will hopefully continue to be heard across the globe well into the future.

Climate change and deforestation were at the forefront of the opening ceremonies this year.  I’d say it’s because these are important themes that in part represent the culture of this South American country.

With Brazil housing 67% percent of the Amazon Rainforest, trees make up a big part of their landscape.  And when it comes to climate change, the Amazon Rainforest is a key player in storing carbon and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. 

"The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the "Lungs of our Planet" because it provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest."


The loss of tree cover can lead to deforestation, one of the biggest culprits in carbon emissions which directly impacts climate change.  In 10 short years, Brazil has taken large strides forward in reducing emissions due to deforestation.

“The country now accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s emissions from tropical deforestation, down from 69 percent a decade ago.”

~World Resources Institute

This 50% decrease has been possible through education, awareness, and the monitoring of forests.  Although such a large decrease is something to celebrate, there is still room for improvement given that Brazil remains to be the tropical country with the highest rate of tree cover loss per year.

Luckily there is a new tool in town.  GLAD Alerts, the newest forest monitoring satellite based system is now live online.  This innovative addition is thanks to Global Forest Watch (GFW) and their team of collaborators.  GFW along with the University of Maryland, Google, and World Resources Initiative (WRI) have come together to offer weekly alerts of new tree cover loss throughout Brazil.

Although there are other forest monitoring system currently being used by the government in Brazil and by other interested parties across the world, GLAD Alerts offers a few additional benefits.  Here are three great features:

  1. It is publicly available and provides the “fastest, highest definition, and widest-scale forest monitoring of any system yet available for Brazil”.
  2. It identifies loss of tree cover on a smaller physical scale compared to the other systems currently available through GFW. These alerts cover 30 m x 30 m area – about the size of two basketball courts. 
  3. Information captured through Landsat satellite imagery is uploaded to the website for review on a weekly basis. This allows for quicker response on the ground level, and hopefully mitigation of tree cover loss spreading further due to the illegal logging activities going unnoticed.  It’s important to note that while the website is updated weekly with current findings, not all areas produce an image on a weekly basis.

While monitoring tree cover lost doesn’t bring deforestation to a halt, it is a big part of the solution, and GLAD Alerts will hopefully bring results to a higher level of success in Brazil.   To learn more about GLAD Alerts, how it got its name, and the difference between tree cover loss and deforestation, check out the recent post on GFW’s blog.

Do you think that forest monitoring systems have the ability to mitigate deforestation?  Comment below or connect through social media – we’d love to hear from you!   


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