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    After 30 Years, Brazil to Catalog the Amazon Rainforest

    Written by

    Derek Mead


    Image via Cosmic Adventure

    Brazil's portion of the Amazon has received a lot of attention in the last year, sparked by the proposed move to reduce Amazonian protections after the region saw historically low rates of deforestation. Additionally, thanks to urbanization and an eight-year drought, the Amazon at large has been burning more than ever. Still, Brazilian deforestation of the Amazon is down, as part of a 2009 pledge to cut rates by 80 percent by 2020. As part of that, the Brazilian government announced plans to conduct a massive survey of the rainforest, and inventory as many species as possible.

    It's a matter of managing the Amazon as best as possible. From the BBC:

    But ministers said they would be able to act more effectively if they had more accurate data.

    "We are going to come to know the rainforest from within," Forestry Minister Antonio Carlos Hummel said announcing the inventory.

    Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said it would help the government to formulate environmental policies.

    "In international debates about climate change, for example, we will know how much forest we have and what state it is in (...), we'll discover species, and gain knowledge about species becoming extinct, as well as information about the distribution of the forest and its potential economic use", Ms Teixeira said.

    The last survey of such complete proportions came way back in the 70s, part of which was Projeto RadamBrasil, a massive aerial survey of the Amazon region that lasted more than a decade. (If you read Portuguese, here's a PDF book of results; for English, this paper's abstract offers a nice summation of what the project did.)

    Thirty-odd years is a long time–even if, interestingly enough, a lot of papers from the era were concerned with the effects of deforestation on climate–and it's good to see Brazil committing to cataloging what's left. The project is expected to take four years, with results published yearly. I'm fascinated to see the results, especially with regards to what's newly discovered. But the cynical side of myself is most curious about comparing the two surveys to see how much of the Amazon is totally gone.