The “Sentinel-1 for Science: Amazonas” project, led by the European Space Agency (ESA), has recently reported that the Amazon basin has lost more than 5.2 million hectares of forests. During the period from January 2017 to November 2021, this project has processed billions of radar images and satellite data that confirm that the entire Amazon basin is losing its great natural wealth: its forests.

The Amazon rainforest is the Earth’s lungs, one of the greenest places we can find on our planet. Currently, it is one of the most threatened ecosystems due to the terrible process of deforestation that it has been experiencing in recent decades.

Stopping deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon is a vital objective that we humans must achieve for its survival. Additionally, it is urgent to maintain good health of the Amazon rainforest’s forests since they help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

Why are forests important for the environment?

Forests are forest ecosystems that provide various services to the world’s population. They support the water cycle balance and significantly contribute to the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change.

Forests play a crucial role for humans inhabiting the planet. They process carbon and convert it back into oxygen, cleaning the air for us to breathe again. They are carbon sinks, natural deposits that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

The forests of the wild areas surrounding cities process the polluting gases generated by urban areas, transforming them back into oxygen that can be breathed. Protected areas are a representative sample of forests worldwide. The conservation and sustainable use of forests are fundamental to ensuring that the Earth is rich in biodiversity.

Sentinel-1 for Science: Amazonas

The monitoring of degradation and deforestation of the Amazon forests occurs at least every two weeks. This monitoring work is possible thanks to the processing of billions of gigabytes of satellite data obtained both day and night.

The method of the “Sentinel-1 for Science: Amazonas” project is based on sincerity and transparency when using radar images to assess forest loss. Through a space-time data cube design used to examine vast amounts of data, a dynamic analysis of deforestation in the Amazon basin is developed. What is seen from space is that over a million hectares of tropical rainforest disappear every year in the Amazon basin, with 2021 being the worst year in Brazil.

What are the main causes of forest degradation in the Amazon?

According to scientists, the degraded surface is much more extensive than initially thought. Specifically, 38% of the forests in the Amazon basin have suffered this degradation, partially or permanently, caused by human activity.

The four main causes of forest degradation in the Amazon are:

  • Changes in vegetation
    • As a result of deforestation and the resulting fragmentation of the Amazon’s habitat.
  • Forest fires
    • The vast majority of forest fires have been caused by human activity.
  • Illegal logging
    • It is an illegal activity carried out by humans to obtain economic benefits.
  • Extreme droughts
    • Climate change induced by humans has caused increasingly extreme droughts in the Amazon and different parts of the Earth.

Source: Ambietum