To allow countries of the Amazon basin to improve environmental decision-making using geospatial data and information, SERVIR-Amazonia works with regional partners to understand needs, and then to translate these needs into the development of tools, products and services. To date and after 9 months of Program implementation, SERVIR-Amazonia is already engaged in the design and development of three services to tackle deforestation and related environmental challenges in Ecuador and Peru.
Deforestation Monitoring and Reporting in Ecuador
Integrate mapped deforestation areas from multiple algorithms and generate updated area estimates of forest loss
Problem: Ecuador is home to over 12 million hectares of native forests and ecosystems. However, these are experiencing losses due to pressures from land-use changes. Ecuador implemented an incentive policy, the Socio Bosque Program, to support the dual objectives of simultaneously balancing development and forest conservation. The country needs timely, robust monitoring products regarding forest cover, deforestation, and degradation to allocate incentives for partners’ properties. This information is also required to meet their commitments to international agreements and to take advantage of opportunities from international donors and other agencies providing payments for climate change mitigation.
Photo credit: Ministry of Environment of Ecuador
Solution: Currently the Forest Conservation Program of the Ministry of the Environment (MAE) and REDD+ Program have been testing deforestation monitoring algorithms that integrate information from synthetic aperture radar and optical imagery. The service will integrate mapped deforestation areas from multiple algorithms and generate updated area estimates of forest loss. The Ministry of Environment’s (MAE) team will work with the SERVIR-Amazonia team, led by the Spatial Informatics Group (SIG). The service team will facilitate a workshop to assess the production of deforestation layers and produce an integrated deforestation product along with a document outlining the integration methodology. The team will use Collect Earth Online to build a reference data set of locations and their corresponding land use, to assess maps and estimate change areas. The Program will build on the System for Earth Observations, Data Access, Processing & Analysis for Land Monitoring (SEPAL) platform.
Monitoring of Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon
Optimize the workflow through automation
Problem: The Peruvian Amazon is facing one of the biggest challenges to reduce deforestation rates, which in recent years are over 150,000 hectares (ha) per year. Gold mining deforestation in Peru caused the forest loss of more than 96,000 ha of primary forest in the last 30 years, hitting historic highs in both 2017 and 2018 when the activity reached several protected areas including the Tambopata National Reserve (RNTB) and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (RCA).
In February 2019, the Peruvian government started an unprecedented operation aimed at eradicating illegal gold mining in the most impacted area of the country (La Pampa), located in the buffer zone of the RNTB. The Ministry of Environment (MINAM) has been developing information on potential locations of illegal gold mining. However, the information arrives often too late and lacks precision resulting in continued illegal mining activities and failure to prosecute offenders. In addition, extensive cloud cover during the wet season limits the capacity for optical remote-sensing products to provide appropriate data for near real-time detection.
Credit: ACCA, proposed conservation corridors, from Manu National Park to Tambopata National Reserve
Solution: SERVIR-Amazonia partner Conservación Amazónica (ACCA) has extensive experience working with the Peruvian government to provide actionable insights on illegal gold mining, supported by funding from NORAD. ACCA produces a brief report including geolocation of potential mining activities in priority regions and high-resolution satellite data. ACCA is currently working with MINAM to compare the performance of various algorithms to detect mining. ACCA’s current workflow is well advanced combining multiple remote sensing products (optical and SAR), using Google Earth Engine and validating through high-resolution data. The intervention from SERVIR-Amazonia will support enhancements to optimize the workflow through automation, investigate opportunities for using machine learning to identify reservoirs associated with mining activities and improve the timeliness and content of the final products delivered to government agencies. The Hub service team will be led by ACCA with support from SIG, and the service will be co-designed and co-developed with MINAM.
Radar for Detecting Forest Change in the Amazon
Build on methods described in the SAR Handbook to provide additional tools to MAAP and Terra-I
Problem: In Peru, Colombia and other places in the tropics, the lack of detailed information on forest change is largely due to high cloud coverage and limited detection capacity with optical imagery. Existing efforts such as the MAAP (produced by ACCA) and Terra-I (produced by CIAT) are working across sectors to improve forest change monitoring. They work with government agencies and civil society to provide much-needed information on forest changes. These efforts can be improved by incorporating new methods into their existing toolsets.
Solution: Recent advances in radar remote sensing would add an important data source to the MAAP and Terra-I initiatives. The service will build on methods described in the SAR Handbook to provide additional tools to MAAP and Terra-I. A SCO-sponsored Subject Matter Expert and SERVIR-Amazonia staff will establish the service through three training sessions, two in Peru and one in Colombia, directed to SERVIR-Amazonia Consortium partners. The intended outcome of the service is to improve technical capacity predominantly with Hub partners.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Mangroves in Guyana
Map the extent and structure of mangrove forests along the coast of Guyana automating the analysis of radar and optical imagery
Problem: Mangrove forests make up much of the coast of Guyana. Because many areas of coastal Guyana are is below sea level, the mangroves serve as a natural barrier protecting inland ecosystems from flooding and saltwater intrusion. However, these forests are under threat from rising sea levels, growing population and land-use change. Accurate mapping of the extent of mangroves and their structure would allow the nation to develop plans and programs to protect them. Specifically the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) needs remote-sensing analysis to measure and monitor the spatial and temporal trends in mangrove growth, deforestation and degradation.
Solution: This service will bring remote-sensing resources, primarily Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) but also others, to bear on mapping the extent and structure of mangrove forests along the coast of Guyana. Professionals in Guyana together with SERVIR-Amazonia staff will build a platform for automating the analysis of radar and optical imagery going back several years and setting a year-2020 baseline for future analysis. The service will make mangrove-related land-use change transparent and the resulting analysis publicly available for use by government and civil society. The key input for starting this service and bringing it to fruition will be a subject matter expert funded by the NASA SERVIR Science Coordination Office over a six-month period at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. Two five-day in-person training sessions will be held at the training facilities of the University of Guyana in Georgetown.