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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Terra-i: No stranger to controversy

Narco-deforestation often goes unnoticed due to their clandestine nature. Terra-i helped to connect the dots for a new article in Science. Photo: McSweeney (Science Magazine).

Narco-deforestation often goes unnoticed due to its clandestine nature. Terra-i helped to connect the dots for a new article in Science. Photo: McSweeney (Science Magazine).

Two things tend to happen when people get their hands on a new tool that is fundamentally helpful.

First, they discover more uses for it than anyone could have imagined. And second, the more numerous and diverse the uses, the more likely it is that the tool will eventually become associated with conflict and controversy.

A recent application of Terra-i – a decidedly helpful tool for detecting changes in land cover, based on near real-time remote sensing – illustrates both tendencies with unusual clarity. Using data from Terra-i, a group of scientists from several US universities have demonstrated the complex ties between illegal drug trafficking and accelerated deforestation in Honduras, according to an article appearing in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Many previous reports have documented environmental damage caused by the clearing of forest for coca production in South America. But this new study focuses on other links in the drug value chain – revealing how clandestine transportation and money laundering also drive deforestation.

Read the full story by Nathan Russell on the Terra-i website.

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