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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Terra’s eye on DAPA

Upon request, DAPA is back with the coffee with…’ blogseries. Over a cup of coffee different DAPA members will tell us about their research.

The first coffee was shared with… Louis Reymondin.

“Together with my team: Oscar Bautista, Jhon Jairo Tello, Paula Paz, Bernadette Menzinger and Ruben Coppus and the leader of the FTA team Glenn Hyman we work with a tool that’s called Terra-i.

Terra-i is a system that allows detecting changes in the vegetation as soon as possible. At the moment we are mainly focusing on Latin America, anywhere from Mexico to Patagonia.

It’s interesting, because often when we talk about ‘human causes’ of changes in the vegetation, we purely think of wood extraction. But actually, so-called industrial agriculture is the main cause of these rapid changes. With industrial -agriculture I refer to large scale oil palm or soy plantations and cattle ranching for example. About 56% of the natural vegetation loss is due to these agricultural practices. Furthermore about a 33% is a consequence of the subsistence agriculture, such as small holder agricultural practices, etc. Another 6% is due to mining and oil extraction. Other causes are infrastructure, urban growth, etc.

The terra-i team

The terra-i team

So, we use different models and create so-called maps of natural vegetation loss and comparative data to create our analyses. These changes are to be called ‘anomaly’ during two image capturing moments, so, during two times 16 days consequently, and then serve as data for us.

Why is it interesting to detect and know about these changes: Because they are areas that are providing very important ecosystem services and/or are  biodiversity hotspots. And exactly because we retrieve the data so quickly: within 32 days, we can right away tell whether there needs to be taken action in a specific area. For example, when we started using the Terra-i tool, Brazil had some type of vegetation analysis, but this happened only once a year: once a year is very little to undertake immediate action.

Our data is publicly available on our platform, where we have about 2000 registrations and about 400 institutions. So, the information we retrieve is then shared with for example the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). An example of what they use it for is when they finance a specific infrastructural project but with the condition that the area around it needs to stay untouched. Using Terra-i, they can verify whether this is the case. Furthermore, the data are ideal to make recommendations for policies, especially on forest conservation and in a certain way to ‘predict the future’ of a specific area. Another example is our work with the Peruvian Ministry of Environment. They use our data to monitor illegal mining in the Peruvian Amazon. It would be great if we got more governmental agencies to use our data. Now that the Global Forest Watch is using Terra-i, this will hopefully happen soon.

Amazon Rainforest. Pic by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Amazon Rainforest. Pic by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Within CIAT, we work a lot together with the Ecosystem Services team. They use our maps to evaluate the impact of human activities in a specific area. Furthermore we work together with the FTA (Forestry, Trees & Agroforestry) team at CIAT.

Our goal is to expand Terra-i to all tropical regions around the different continents. In Africa and Asia we have already been creating maps, but they are not validated yet, so not ready to be published. However, this will soon happen.”

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