Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE – National Institute for Space Research) has been providing training for earth observation (EO) specialists from African and other countries (in Asia and Latin America), under its Capacitree programme, which is a capacity-building project in forest monitoring by satellite.
Capacitree is coordinated by the Amazon Regional Centre, one of INPE’s three regional centres. Brazil is the only country located in the tropical region that has a forest monitoring programme, and, since 2010, has offered its expertise to countries interested in maintaining their forests.
“Brazil has a very robust forest monitoring programme – the biggest in the world,” points out INPE EO directorate head Dr Leila Fonseca. It started in 1988 with using satellite-based remote sensing to monitor the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.
Trainees from 30 countries have attended Capacitree courses, which are now available in Spanish and English, as well as in Portuguese. The African countries which have participated are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, São Tomé e Principe, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia. “With Capacitree, we train people to use EO data and remote sensing technologies for forest monitoring,” she explains.
“We have a lot of educational programmes at INPE, including postgraduate courses on remote sensing – an excellent programme that started in 1972,” she reports. “We have short, 40-hour, training courses on geographical information systems and remote sensing, and distance learning courses, also on remote sensing. Our programmes are open to international students and the Capacitree programme has been supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Latin American Development Bank, the Caribbean Community and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation.”
INPE has many projects for monitoring deforestation and degradation in the Brazilian Amazon region. One of them is the deforestation and forest degradation early warning system that provides deforestation information for Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and of Renewable Natural Resources). This early warning system is called DETER and warns Ibama of illegal logging and other illegal deforestation, so that the agency, which is responsible for environmental law enforcement, can take rapid action. This project started in 2004 and uses MODIS images with a spatial resolution of 250 m. (MODIS stands for Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and is a key instrument aboard two US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa, EO satellites, Terra and Aqua.)
“We also have another deforestation warning system, called DETER-B, which generates maps of deforestation and degradation of the Amazon rainforest using images from the WFI (CBERS-4 [satellite]) and AWiFS (Resourcesat-2) sensors,” notes Fonseca. (CBERS stands for China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite; WFI is the Wide Field Imager on CBERS-4. AWiFS is the acronym for Advanced Wide Field Sensor, while ResourceSat-2 is an Indian Space Research Organisation EO satellite.) “This [DETER B] system detects deforested areas smaller than DETER-A, producing more accurate data from Ibama actions. We are evolving to DETER-C, which uses satellite data with a spatial resolution between 20 m and 30 m, such as Resourcesat-2, which carries Linear Imaging Self-Scanning Sensor, or LISS-3, with 23.5 m resolution, UK-based international EO satellite constellation consortium, or DMCii, DEIMOS (a Spanish EO company which operates two satellites; it is part of Canada’s Urthecast Corporation), CBERS-4 (MUX camera) and Landsat-8 (a joint Nasa/US Geological Survey satellite).”
“CBERS-4 images are pretty good,” she says. It carries four imagers; apart from the previously mentioned MUX and WFI, there are also PAN and IRS. MUX covers four spectral bands from visible to near-infrared (IR) and has a resolution of 20 m, while WFI has a spatial resolution of 64 m. PAN has both panchromatic (monochrome, with a resolution of 5 m) and multispectral (resolution: 10) imaging capability. IRS is an IR sensor, capable of both 40 m and 80 m resolutions. CBERS-4 was launched in December 2014.
CBERS is a bilateral programme that has been running for more than 20 years (the cooperation agreement between the two countries was signed in 1988 and CBERS-1 was launched in 1999). Originally, it was 30% Brazilian and 70% Chinese, but is now (as was always planned) a 50:50 programme. CBERS-1 was followed by CBERS-2, CBERS-2A and CBERS-3 (which, sadly, failed to reach its proper orbit owing to the failure of the launcher). CBERS-4 is identical to CBERS-3 and was assembled to replace it. Next in the series will be CBERS-4A, which should be launched at the end of next year. “We have constantly improved the technologies in the CBERS series,” she highlights.
INPE’s environmental monitoring programmes have expanded to cover all Brazil’s biomes – the Mata Atlantica rainforest (much more endangered than the Amazon, although now experiencing regrowth), the Pantanal wetlands, the central savannah, the pampas grasslands in the south (the Campos Sulinos) and the semi-arid Caatinga, in the north-east. The project to monitor the savannah started this year, funded by $9-million from the World Bank.
INPE is part of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and functions in the sphere of satellites and space technology development for the Brazilian space programme, which is coordinated by the Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira – AEB). Fonseca attended last month’s International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment 2017, in Pretoria.