A long-term perspective on deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon
- 1European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), Forest Resource and Climate Unit, Via E. Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
- 2Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Av. dos Astronautas 1758, Jd. Granja - CEP: 12227-010, São José dos Campos - SP, Brazil
Keywords: land cover change, arc of deforestation, Brazilian Amazon, Landsat, systematic sample, multi-temporal analysis
Abstract. Monitoring tropical forest cover is central to biodiversity preservation, terrestrial carbon stocks, essential ecosystem and climate functions, and ultimately, sustainable economic development. The Amazon forest is the Earth’s largest rainforest, and despite intensive studies on current deforestation rates, relatively little is known as to how these compare to historic (pre 1985) deforestation rates. We quantified land cover change between 1975 and 2014 in the so-called Arc of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, covering the southern stretch of the Amazon forest and part of the Cerrado biome. We applied a consistent method that made use of data from Landsat sensors: Multispectral Scanner (MSS), Thematic Mapper (TM), Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) and Operational Land Imager (OLI). We acquired suitable images from the US Geological Survey (USGS) for five epochs: 1975, 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2014. We then performed land cover analysis for each epoch using a systematic sample of 156 sites, each one covering 10 km × 10 km, located at the confluence point of integer degree latitudes and longitudes. An object-based classification of the images was performed with five land cover classes: tree cover, tree cover mosaic, other wooded land, other land cover, and water. The automatic classification results were corrected by visual interpretation, and, when available, by comparison with higher resolution imagery. Our results show a decrease of forest cover of 24.2% in the last 40 years in the Brazilian Arc of Deforestation, with an average yearly net forest cover change rate of -0.71% for the 39 years considered.