The NASA/USGS Landsat satellite mission is helping scientists study how the Amazon rainforest has changed over decades. The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, but every year, less of that forest is still standing. Today’s deforestation across the Amazon frontier is tractors and bulldozers clearing large swaths to make room for industrial-scale cattle ranching and crops. So far, the amount of area that’s been deforested in the Brazilian Amazon alone is equivalent to the size of the state of California.
Scientists like Tasso Azevedo of MapBiomas and Doug Morton of NASA use satellite data to map land cover in Brazil with a historical perspective. Using the Landsat archive, they can precisely identify where the massive forest has been cleared and if it was permitted. The aim of MapBiomas is to enable better decisions for managing their natural resources.
The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes for the benefit of all.