The Amazon Rainforest is home to one-tenth of all plant and animal species on the planet and produces one-fifth of all the oxygen we breathe. Monitoring and protecting such a rich natural resource is of the utmost importance, both for biodiversity and human well-being. Data on Global Forest Watch like the Protected Areas layer and GLAD alerts—which is newly available for Brazil—allows us to keep a closer eye on the health of this important landscape. GLAD Alerts in Brazil detected recent loss in Parque Nacional do Jamanxim (Jamanxim National Park) in the state of Pará within the Amazon. This activity is concerning given that Jamanxim is an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category II Protected Area, the second most restricted protection status available. The designation is given by the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), a joint effort between the IUCN and the United Nations Environmental Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), to classify the world’s most ecologically significant places as various types of protected areas. The Protected Areas data, provided by WDPA, also shows a hole in the center of the park boundaries that seems to be excluded from the IUCN Category II status of its surroundings. What gives?
We can begin to find an answer by looking at the new hybrid base map, which shows Google Maps satellite imagery overlaid with established road networks. In doing so, we see that road BR-163, also known as Brazil’s “Soy Highway,” runs straight through Jamanxim. Since the 1970s, BR-163 has connected Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s main soy producing state, with the freshwater port of Santarém in Pará. BR-163 is notorious for many reasons; however, the most salient of these is that in the last few years this road has been held responsible for substantial percentages of Brazil’s total deforestation rate. According to IMAZON, BR-163 was accountable for over 50 percent of total deforestation in 2013 alone. Brazil’s country-specific mining concessions data show that the aforementioned hole in Jamanxim national park has been allocated for diamond exploration. The GFW analysis feature shows that there have been more than 2,000 alerts of forest loss within this concession. The significance of these preliminary findings require further investigation, but using the dynamic and static layers in tandem allows us to piece together the edges of an interesting puzzle.
Systems like the GLAD alerts bring us closer to real-time forest monitoring and data like Protected Areas and Brazil’s mining concessions provide users the context for why changes may be happening.