Google satellite imagery could stop Amazon deforestation
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Google satellite imagery could stop Amazon deforestation

Google Earth Engine could be the latest tool in the fight against illegal fishing and deforestation in the Amazon, El Espectador reports.

Satellite imagery is converted into maps which scientists can interpret and use to help plot the worst affected areas, David Thau, a scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome explains.

The images are fragmented and pixels from previous photos are used to recreate photos without cloud cover for example, Thau adds.

To date, Google has worked with the University of California in San Franciso to map out malaria prevalence in Swaziland.

Brian Sullivan, leading the Google initiative, has worked with numerous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon using satellite imagery to ensure that their territories are safe.

“The idea is to give them the tools to control economic activities,” he comments, adding that the initiative could be widened to monitor fishing levels in the Pacific.

Countries in the region, such as Brazil and Argentina, have already started using the technology to monitor environmental change.

Illegal mining

A web platform “Rutas del Oro” has completed a documentary and book into illegal mining across the Amazon region.

A total of five countries affected by the phenomenon are set to feature in the documentary, led by Peru’s Ojo Público team.

“We wanted to make the most of technologies and the journeys that we carried out across the five countries to expose the gold trafficking problem criss-crossing borders which no-one controls, it’s very sad and serious. So, we created an interactive platform with a format so that the user can submerge themselves in the histories and become an active member – asking questions or choosing other points of interest.” Audrey Córdova the documentary producer and photographer comments.

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“In every case I always felt the same, there was a huge expanse of green in front of me, which is enormous, but soon becomes defenseless and forgotten due to effects of mining activity in the Amazon.” she adds.

Too little, too late?

Although one home to between 8 – 50 million people when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived, according to a recent study, illegal mining, fishery and deforestation continue to scar the rainforest.

Schemes, such as Google Earth’s satellite monitoring, could be key to future preservation of the Amazon.

See also:

Brazil arrests alleged king of Amazon deforestation

Five ways humans are hurting – and helping – the Amazon

Brazil: progress in the battle to save Amazon forests?