Brazil perfects control of carbon released by the Amazon

A new system for calculating how much greenhouse gases produces the Brazilian Amazon deforestation comes at an opportune time to measure the implications of the Forest Code reform.

The new calculation system optimizes satellite state control of forests.

The carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 57 percent between 2004 and 2011, by reducing logging, according to data released Dec. 10 by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE, by its Portuguese acronym), based in São José dos Campos, the southern state of São Paulo.

In the same period, Amazon deforestation fell by 78 percent. Illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest peaked in 2004 when 27,700 square kilometers were removed . But in 2011 only 6,400 square kilometers were cleared, according to the government INPE, by strengthening surveillance loggers, forest fires and inappropriate land use, among other causes.

Last year, the Amazon released 401 megatons of carbon dioxide compared to 953 in 2004. This represented a reduction of 552 megatons of that greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, indicated by the INPE. The data were obtained from the INPE system-EM (Emission Model) that reportedly to the study co-author, Jean Ometto, includes new features that make it more “representative” calculation.

The method considers a set of processes related to deforestation and subsequent activities to her in the logged areas, such as agriculture and livestock. It also takes into account other processes linked to the removal of forest mass and carbon dioxide emissions, such as logging, fire used to remove plant debris, decomposition of soil organic matter and secondary vegetation growth, among others.

“What changes this model is the fact consider various processes associated with deforestation that interfere with the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere,” summarized.

The methodology uses information from the scientific literature and maps of biomass and land cover. But they are also use data of the Calculation Program of the Amazon Deforestation (Prodes), the oldest of INPE, based on the analysis of pixels (the smallest unit of a homogeneous color digital image) of satellite photographs, which determines whether or not represented area deforested.

According Ometto, the systems that do not include all these elements to estimate emissions related to deforestation yield higher values reduction , considering the same map of the forest biomass. By the above method, for example, the reduction of carbon emissions between 2004 and 2011 would be 74 percent instead of 57 percent measured now, said the coordinator of the Democracy and Sustainability Institute, Bazileu Margarido.

The new system is “reliable” and “represents an evolution”, since the objective is to evaluate reductions or increases in the emission of greenhouse gases, not just the deforested area, he said. The traditional measurement is the entire Amazon rainforest as if it was homogeneous, “while in reality shows significant variations from one region to another,” he said.

“A deforested area in the northern state of Pará (in the far north) will issue a very different amount of carbon to a similar area in the state of Mato Grosso (Midwest), because the density of trees, and therefore of captured carbon is different in Pará and Mato Grosso ” .

Another factor in the degradation of forests are fires land preparation for agriculture, known as “queimadas”. “Even without increasing the area deforested, causing large carbon emissions have increased alarmingly in recent years,” said Margarido

Physicist Robert Kishinami, specializing in climate change and sustainable use of natural resources, said that this methodology published in the journal Global Change Biology, “is as reliable as the Prodes, internationally considered a good model.”

“The amount of carbon varies from place to place and the dynamics of air emission also change depending on the type of intervention, such as cutting burning or cleaning,” he explained. Kishinami, advisor of the ActionAid international organization , expects the system to be further refined, among other reasons because the next satellites of the program China-Brazil Earth Resources will transport higher resolution cameras.

“That means better coverage of the Amazon”. The new methodology and progress in controlling deforestation are known as the Congress analyzes an interim measure and vetoes to 12 items introduced by President Dilma Rousseff to the proposed new Forest Code.

The fine measurement of deforestation and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions will be the best witness to the impact which the new standard in the rainforest. Different environmental organizations consider reform of the Forest Code, adopted on April 25th by the parliament, weaken the protection of forests.

“If the new code, more agricultural than forest ends incorporating what is now passing the joint committee (parliament) of the provisional measure, as removing the protection of intermittent rivers, deforestation will increase again greatly across the Amazon, “said Kishinami.

The Code still in force prohibits logging forests in headwaters and riverbanks permanent and intermittent. “Most of the tributaries that feed the major rivers are temporary or intermittent throughout the Amazon,” he said.

To Margarido, the results were “very positive” in the last seven years because the fight against logging was based on the Program for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon and institutional framework built over the past three decades, “where the 1965 Forest Code was a key. ”

“The dismantling of the Code which is nurturing the Congress with the approval of the government, may cause a troubling reversal,” he lamented.

By Fabiana Frayssinet |


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