Amazon Day: Can technology help to save the biome?

This Sunday, September 5th, the Amazon Day is remembered in Brazil. The biome, according to the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), has over 5 million km² (Brazilian area), 4.9 million km² of basin and is home to 50% of the world’s biodiversity.

The Amazon also has a variety of up to 300 species of trees, 3,000 species of fish and 17 million people living in the region. The superlative numbers make the biome one of the richest and most biodiverse places on the planet, being admired and known in all regions of the world, as it still occupies the territories of five other countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

To protect and conserve this living heritage of humanity, technology ends up emerging as an ally. Among these initiatives is PrevisIA, an Artificial Intelligence tool that anticipates information from regions with a higher risk of deforestation and fires in the Amazon.

Launched jointly by Microsoft, the Amazon Institute of Man and Environment (Imazon) and the Vale Fund, PrevisIA is open to the public and analyzes data such as topography, land cover, and legal and illegal roads to “identify possible changing trends in land use”. The information can be passed on to public bodies so that they can take preventive action.

The platform uses Microsoft Azure cloud computing and AI algorithms developed by Imazon to detect roads in satellite images, and identify the different types of threatened territories in the biome, including Indigenous Lands and Conservation Units.

“The great advance of this project was to democratize access to advanced Information Technology resources to facilitate the engagement of several users in the prevention and control of deforestation in the Amazon”, said Carlos Souza Jr, associate researcher at Imazon, in August of this year, in official release of the technology.

Microsoft

“The system has the potential to be used also to assess areas of forest restoration and fire vulnerability, helping to produce more concrete data for REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) arrangements that may be adopted by Vale in credit markets in Brazil. carbon,” explained Patrícia Daros, the Vale Fund’s Director of Operations.

100% national project

An important project that emerged to protect the Amazon biome was Amazônia 1. It is the 1st satellite 100% developed and operated by Brazil and was launched into Earth orbit on February 28 this year.

The project was carried out by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) and has been in the operational phase since June 25, with the images captured by it being used for monitoring the Amazon (PAMZ+). O TechWorld spoke with Cláudio Almeida, coordinator of the Amazon and other Biomes Monitoring Program, about the use and importance of the tool.

Almeida argued that the so-called WFI (Campo Largo Imaging Camera) images produced by the satellite, to analyze deforestation and forest degradation on a daily basis, were incorporated into the Real Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER), which makes a quick survey of evidence alerts of alteration of the forest cover in the Amazon.

SatelliteAmazon Structural Qualification Preparation Phase 1

“Amazonia 1 is a Sun synchronous (polar) orbiting satellite that will generate images of the planet every five days. For this, it has a wide-sight optical imager (camera with 3 frequency bands in the visible spectrum (VIS), – and a near-infrared band – (Near Infrared or NIR) capable of observing a range of approximately 850 km with 60 meters of resolution. to make available a significant amount of data from the same point of the planet”, explained the professional.

He added that the characteristics of the satellite make it essential for analyzing deforestation alerts. The reception of data from Amazônia 1 is carried out by a station located in Cuiabá (Mato Grosso) and processed by the Image Generation Laboratory in Cachoeira Paulista (São Paulo).

Project importance

The coordinator of the Amazon Monitoring Program explains that the 100% Brazilian satellite is one of the three used by DETER. Next to it are the CBERS-04 and CBERS-04A. “The three are of equal importance. The joint use of the three satellites allows a visit of one or at most two days to any point in Brazil, each satellite alone has a five-day visit.”

Almeida adds that the Amazon Program team is made up of Inpe employees. Some servers are dedicated exclusively to PAMZ+, and others are part-time. In addition, the essential work of monitoring the biome is carried out by technological development fellows, totaling about 40 people.

SatelliteAmazon images can even be consulted on the internet

Are there reasons to celebrate?

Mariana Napolitano, Science Manager at WWF Brasil, a non-governmental organization that defends nature conservation, says that technological innovations are super important and allies in the fight against criminal actions and deforestation in the Amazon. She explains that speed in identifying areas of deforestation and burning is essential to make actions more precise.

Despite this, she is keen to emphasize that the tools are not enough, as they depend on human operation. The environmentalist also says that the Amazon has suffered speeches and movements that “stimulate its destruction”.

“The main problem faced by the Amazon is the increase in pressures that have directly resulted in deforestation. There has also been degradation, fragmentation of areas and fires, which are slowly generating a loss of biodiversity value and the forest’s capacity to bioregulate itself” .

Amazon

Napolitano recalls that the biome has also suffered from issues of illegal mining, which in the aggregate create difficulties for Brazilians such as the increased frequency of extreme weather events, droughts, floods, changes in the rain cycle, loss of biodiversity and worsening health (already that the smoke generated by fires increases the chances of respiratory diseases).

Urgent Actions

The representative of WWF Brazil also defends that the federal government has not done enough to protect the biome, and that through actions such as the reduction of inspections and fines in illegal activities, it has stimulated social conflicts, land grabbing and land speculation, in addition to burning and deforestation.

“The covid-19 pandemic, which had an impact on conservation work because people couldn’t go into the field, ended up adding to a scenario of greater permissiveness to legal (government) actions,” he says.

She warns that actions to protect the biome are urgent, as the analyzes carried out by Inpe itself point to a critical scenario. In June this year, the Amazon had the highest number of fires in the last 14 years for the month, for example. According to Inpe, 2,308 hot spots were registered in the period, which indicated an increase of 98% compared to May 2021.

Amazon

“In addition to more funding for preventing and combating illegalities, it is essential to ensure compliance with the notices so that infractions and fines are actually paid. In addition, we need greater sector commitment, better traceability mechanisms to ensure that the companies that are buying or producing products from the Amazon are not linked to deforestation,” says Napolitano.

Finally, the environmentalist recalls that it is very important that there is a sectoral pact with companies, NGOs and that it involves municipal, state and federal governments to guarantee the conservation of the Amazon biome.

the government response

O TechWorld contacted the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) to discuss the problems in the Amazon raised by WWF Brasil and to find out about investments in technology to monitor the biome. Until the closing of the article, however, the folder did not return the contacts.

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