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Home Scienza e Tecnica 5 million hectares of Amazon rainforest lost in 5 years

5 million hectares of Amazon rainforest lost in 5 years

Scienza e Tecnica
The Amazon rainforest, view from the International Space Station (credit: ESA/A.Gerst, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

From January 2017 to November 2021, the Amazon rainforest shrank by over 5 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Costa Rica, according to billions of radar images acquired by the Sentinel-1 satellites of Copernicus, the Earth observation program of the European Space Agency (Esa) and the European Commission. 

The Sentinel-1 mission has been monitoring the health of tropical forests around the world with unprecedented regularity since 2015, acquiring millions of gigabytes of data day and night, including in the presence of cloud, fog, smoke or aerosols, that allow deforestation updates every 6-12 days at a resolution of 20 meters.

Thanks to the 'Sentinel-1 for Science: Amazonas' science project coordinated by Esa, more than 450 terabytes of data have been converted into a 'data cube’, a multidimensional data structure allowing a dynamic analysis of deforestation in the Amazon basin, with a map showing the loss of more than 5.2 million hectares in less than five years. 

“What we are seeing from space is over a million hectares of tropical moist forests disappearing each year in the Amazon basin, with the worst year being 2021 in Brazil. We can track these losses and report on them transparently and consistently every 12 days henceforth,” says Neha Hunka, Remote Sensing Expert at Gisat, a partner in the project.

The next goal will be to quantify carbon loss based on changes in land cover, in collaboration with Esa's Climate Change Initiative team.

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