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Space Technology and Environmental Monitoring in Brazil.

Brazil encompasses the fifth largest territory in the world and possesses the largest tropical forest on earth. Yet these attributes have not come without a cost: the country faces a diversity of environmental problems that could have irreversible, negative consequences for both its ecology and its people. To address these problems, the Brazilian Government has led the way in developing a space technology program to monitor the environment and it has used data from remote sensing satellites for diverse applications of critical importance to both national and international policymakers.

Space technology has been used to study environmentally damaging phenomena, such as deforestation and biomass burning, that contribute significantly to global warming and biodiversity loss. Thanks to satellite data, the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE) is able to conduct annual assessments of gross deforestation and accurately estimate the annual rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazonia. This information has allowed the Brazilian Government to monitor deforestation resulting from logging, fuelwood use and shifting cultivation, as well as to adopt effective measures to reduce the problem.

The most recent example of such information usage relates to the evaluation of the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change at the World Climate Convention in Kyoto. The Conference aimed at negotiating a Protocol to assign relative responsibilities to developed countries classified as "Annex I Parties," defined during the 1995 First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Berlin. At that time, non-Annex I Parties--including Brazil--agreed to advance on already existing but non-binding commitments.

The energy sector is one of the greatest contributors to [CO.sub.2] emissions, namely the burning of petrol, gas and coal. Brazil falls far behind the United States and China, the first and second leading greenhouse gas producers, respectively. According to recent estimates, Brazil's energy sector emits some 60 million tons of [CO.sub.2] per year, whereas the United States emits 1.5 billion tons, followed by China at 800 million.(1) However, the Brazilian contribution to [CO.sub.2] emissions from land use, including forest clearing, biomass burning and logging, is still unknown. Brazil's Ministry of Science and Technology is presently conducting a study to compile a national inventory of net greenhouse gas emissions that is expected to become available in the next two years. Current data make it clear that Brazil's environmental challenges are significant, and decisive action is needed to meet them.

In this paper, I argue that many of Brazil's most pressing environmental concerns can only be addressed using space technology. I will describe Brazil's space technology program as well as endeavors to use satellite data in support of environmental projects, such as deforestation and biomass burning. Considering the importance of the Amazonia region to the global ecosystem--with its abundance of natural resources--I will devote special attention to space technology projects currently underway in the region and the government policies aimed at ensuring sustainable development in the Amazonia and throughout Brazil.


The relevance of remote sensing to economic and social development has been identified by many countries, particularly those with large land masses or coastal regions, such as China, Thailand and India. The latter, for example, has used a space program comprised of a satellite and a ground station to improve special farming and agriculture, which has greatly benefited national development.

Brazil was one of the first developing countries to engage in space technologies in an institutionalized fashion, creating government organizations dedicated to space in the early 1960s. The Institute for Space Activities, today called the Institute of Aeronautics and Space (IAE),(2) was created in 1969 to develop the capacity necessary to design and build rockets and satellite launchers. In the early 1970s, the Ministry of Science and Technology's National Institute for Space Research (INPE)(3) evolved from the National Committee of Space Activities. INPE's activities initially involved research in space and atmospheric science, but have grown to encompass new space applications, such as remote sensing and meteorology, as well as the development of satellites and associated ground systems.

In 1971, the Brazilian Committee for Space Activities (COBAE)(4) was created to manage space activities. Other institutions dedicated to space activities in Brazil include the Barreira do Inferno Launching Center, created in 1965 in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte State, and the Alcantara Launching Center in Alcantara, Maranhao State. Beginning in 1979, a new initiative was given to the Brazilian space sector with the establishment of the Brazilian Complete Space Mission (MEC-B),(5) the country's first long-term space program.

MEC-B was initially aimed at developing four small application satellites, two for data collection and two for remote sensing, as well as the necessary support infrastructure. The program started with ample international cooperation toward technological assistance. However, by the mid-1980s it was facing significant difficulties due to policies that restricted the exportation of "dual-use" technologies--those that could have been used for military purposes--in order to control nuclear proliferation.

In the early 1990s, a new institution was created to play a more proactive role than COBAE, while unequivocally establishing the pacific character of Brazilian space activities. The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB)(6) was created in 1994 by the President of Brazil to replace COBAE.

In February 1993, four years behind schedule, the first data collection satellite, SCD-1, was successfully launched on a Pegasus rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, by Orbital Sciences Corporation. The satellite collects meteorological and environmental data and retransmits them in real-time to as many as 500 remote autonomous data collection platforms or ground stations.(7) Meteorological data have thus been collected from remote areas in Brazil, including the Amazonia region, providing important environmental information on Brazilian territory Several institutions make use of the data collected by SCD-1 for different purposes. At INPE, the data provide important information for models used in meteorological and climatological forecasting.

The largest network of data collection platforms in Brazil, comprising approximately 225 units, was jointly established by INPE and the National Department of Water and Electricity (DNAEE).(8) The network constitutes a significant improvement over DNAEE's traditional data collection system, since it ensures greater reliability, a higher frequency of data acquisition and greater capacity to monitor remote areas in the Amazonia. This data is vital to DNAEE's efforts to monitor Brazil's river basins and hydrological resources, and to better manage hydroelectric power generation throughout the country.(9)

Although the SCD-1 has surpassed its expected one-year lifetime, it will soon be replaced by a second generation satellite, the SCD-2. Unfortunately, an attempt to launch a replica of SCD-2 (SCD-2A) on the Brazilian Launching Vehicle (VLS-1) was aborted on 2 November 1997 due to engine failure. The launching of SCD-2 on a Pegasus rocket is now planned for 1998.(10)

Despite its importance to Brazil, the data collection satellites have a limited capability to provide the type of information necessary to monitor the country's natural resources. Considering the relevance of the Amazon region worldwide, INPE re-evaluated the specifications for the MEC-B remote sensing satellite in 1995, emerging with the concept of a low equatorial orbit satellite that will provide full coverage of the Amazon region every 105 minutes.(11) Scheduled to be launched in 2000, the SSR-1 will use a camera operating in visible and infrared spectral bands with spatial resolutions ranging from 100 meters at the equator and 200 meters at 15 degrees south, covering an extension on the ground that is 2,200 kilometers wide. The greatest improvement of SSR-1 is in its transmission mode, which will allow the decentralization of the data distribution to several low-cost receiving stations. The receiving stations will be able to receive, process and analyze data within a radius of approximately 500 kilometers. All the data acquired by SSR-1 will also be transmitted to a central station in Cuiaba, Mato Grosso State.

The high revisit frequency of the SSR and its spatial resolution of one to four hectares will be useful for several applications that are presently restricted by cloud cover that is currently preventing the assessment of many areas of the Amazonia with good spatial resolution. The SSR will generate four to five images daily whose mosaicking may completely eliminate the cloud cover problem, allowing for observation of the entire region. The SSR can also be applied to detect and collect data on fires, an activity presently limited to two passages of a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite. The SSR will also provide near real-time information on areas affected by fire. Overall, the ability to generate images throughout the day will be vital to the improvement of INPE fire detection and control systems.

Studies involving the characterization, classification, regeneration and seasonal changes of Amazonia vegetation, which has important implications for climate, [CO.sub.2] exchange and ecosystem stability, will also benefit from the SSR. In addition, the satellite can be used to monitor mineral exploration and illegal logging activities.(12)

The need for a satellite with high revisit frequency was identified in the late 1970s when MEC-B's remote sensing satellites were designed. At that time, the satellites were planned to include a Wide Field Imager (WFI) sensor to provide wide area imagery with a high temporal resolution, covering the entire Brazilian territory every four days with a spatial resolution of 2 60 by 2 60 meters. This standard would provide an intermediary spatial resolution to the sensors on board Landsat (30 meters by 30 meters) and the NOAA meteorological satellite (1.1 kilometers by 1.1 kilometers). These features would be extremely suitable for the study of the dynamics of vegetation cover, which are central to the analysis of global climate change.

In 1988, Brazil and China agreed to jointly build and launch two remote sensing satellites of medium size (1,450 kilograms). Each is equipped with multiple sensors of different spatial and temporal resolutions designed to provide global coverage of the earth. The first satellite from this partnership, the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS-1), will be launched by a Chinese Long March series rocket from the Shanxi Launch Site in mid-1998. The Wide Field Imager camera (WFI), initially planned for the MEC-B's first remote sensing satellite, was included in CBERS along with two other cameras: a High Resolution CCD camera and an Infrared Multispectral Scanner (IR-MSS). The spatial resolutions of these cameras range from 20 meters (for CDD) to 80 meters (for IR-MSS) to 260 meters (for WFI), with temporal resolution ranging from five days (WFI) to 26 days (CCD and IR-MSS). In addition, the CCD camera has a sideways pointing capability of approximately 32 degrees and can produce stereoscopic images.(13) Furthermore, any phenomenon detected by the WFI may be "zoomed" by the oblique view of the CCD camera with a maximum time-lag of three days.(14) The spectral bands included in CBERS-1 will provide a strong basis for studying, mapping and monitoring earth resources. CBERS also includes a data collection system for real-time retransmission of environmental data gathered on the ground and transmitted to the satellite by small autonomous stations. The first CCD and WFI simulated images have been put together using data from a hyperspectral sensor acquired during a 1995 study of cloud, smoke and aerosols in the Amazonia, developed by INPE in cooperation with NASA (SCAR-B Mission).(15)

The Brazilian contribution to CBERS-1 was 30 percent, both technically and financially However, a more equitable distribution of responsibilities will be achieved with CBERS-2. Discussions are presently under way to ensure continuity in the technological partnership between Brazil and China, through the construction of two additional satellites, CBERS-3 and CBERS-4. These are similar to the first two systems, but employ an improved spatial resolution capability of up to 5 meters.

The Brazilian Space Agency developed the National Program of Space Activities (PNAE)(16) to define space technology investments for the period 1996 to 2005. The Program demonstrates that space activities, especially those related to earth observation, provide important support to governmental policies through their ability to monitor extensive areas of land and large-scale phenomena such as Amazonia fires. The Program notes that Brazil will explore additional areas of space activity with particular relevance to the country--areas which may have no appeal for developed countries. Possible projects include a constellation of small, low-equatorial orbit satellites for inexpensive communications, allowing increased information exchange between remote areas like the Amazonia and other regions in Brazil, as well as systems aimed at distance learning.


The potential for space-based sensors to observe the earth was first demonstrated through photographs taken by astronauts aboard the U.S. Gemini spacecraft in the 1960s. One of the key factors that contributed to the wide acceptance of space technology by the scientific community was its potential to provide systematic observation and data collection on a global scale. During the 1960s, the first of a series of meteorological satellites was launched, and immediate results were obtained.(17) The ability of these satellites to provide weather forecasting data spurred the development of other types of satellites, including remote sensing and earth observation satellites.

The first satellite developed specifically to study land, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS-1--later renamed Landsat-1), was created by NASA and launched in July 1972. Initially, research efforts concentrated on applications that could most benefit from remotely sensed information, such as forestry, agriculture, water resources, geology, coastal area studies, oceanography, land use and urban and regional planning.

In February 1986, a new satellite was launched, named SPOT, which, compared to Landsat, incorporated a series of significant advancements in some research activities. In addition to an improved ground resolution of 20 meters and 10 meters (compared to Landsat's 30 meters), SPOT allowed for the revisit rate to be controlled and for the generation of pairs of images that could provide a three-dimensional view of a given area, an important feature for cartographic applications. The ability of satellites to provide data on a routine basis was particularly appealing to countries that had extensive masses of land and water that required mapping or monitoring. Brazil established one ground station to receive, process, archive and distribute Landsat data in 1974, and another for SPOT imagery in 1988.

However, despite their wide-ranging potential, Landsat and SPOT were not developed to specifically address oceanographic applications. In addition, cloud cover often restricted the collection of data from these optical systems. To overcome these limitations, Brazil adapted its ground station to receive and process data from the European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS-1), with sensors operating in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum, thus insensitive to the presence of cloud or sunlight conditions. The ERS payload also incorporates instruments capable of providing data on sea-surface winds, ocean circulation and sea conditions, which allows for an improved understanding of oceanic-atmospheric interactions and better monitoring of dynamic coastal processes and pollution. The ERS data are also useful in the detection of land-use change.

In addition to Landsat, SPOT and ERS, Brazil receives data from several meteorological satellites, which are used for weather and climate forecasting, among other applications. Brazil is also seeking to acquire data from the Canadian satellite RADARSAT, launched in November 1995, which also operates in the microwave region of the spectrum. Since 1992, a large number of researchers have been investigating the potential for using this type of data for several applications, including mineral exploration, forestry, water studies, land use and, more recently, agriculture and oceanography Again, the possibility to overcome the cloud problem, which can very seriously affect certain areas in Brazil, makes these kinds of data appealing in many respects.


The Amazonia deforestation project, one of the most critical initiatives relying on remotely sensed data, was initiated in response to national and international concern over the rate of tropical rain forest depletion.

The region has in fact suffered from progressive deforestation since the city of Belem was founded in the state of Para in 1616, due to its economic importance in agricultural development, especially cacao extraction, rubber extraction (beginning in the 19th century), cultivation of juta and black pepper (introduced by the Japanese in the 20th century) and increased cattle raising since 1966. Other developments included the implantation of a massive agroforestry complex in Jari (which was sold to a consortium of Brazilian business interests in 1982), colonization programs by the Brazilian Federal Government in 1970 and diversification of agricultural activities to cultivate coffee, dende, watermelon and papaya.

Moreover, with the opening of new roads in the 1970s, agriculture that initially developed along the Amazonian floodplains was spread en masse into the forest using slash and burn methods. By the 1980s, the intensification of biomass burning activities and the degree of deforestation, with the ensuing implications for both the national and global ecosystem, had become sources of serious concern within the scientific community and governments around the world.

In 1987, the Brazilian Government ordered INPE to quantify the extent and rate of gross deforestation in the forest area of approximately 4 million square kilometers of the Legal Amazonia.(18) A task of this magnitude could never be conducted without the use of space technology

The availability of Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) data, dating from 1974, made it possible to perform comprehensive assessments of deforestation in the region. Results from the first wall-to-wall assessment, which corresponded to years 1974 and 1978, were published by INPE and the former Brazilian Institute for Forest Development (IBDF, which is today IBAMA) in 1980. Since 1988, INPE has carried out a series of annual deforestation assessments in the Amazonia region, based on data acquired by a Landsat-5 Thematic Mapper (TM) sensor. This INPE project, known as the Deforestation Project (PRODES),(19) comprises a large number of activities, including visual interpretation of color composite images using bands 3, 4 and 5 of Landsat-5, at a scale of 1:250,000.(20) At this scale, the Legal Amazonia is covered by 229 scenes, which are examined in order to determine boundaries between originally forested areas and areas covered by other natural vegetation, as well as to monitor gross deforestation. The assessment covers various forest types, from the dense tropical forest to the thick tree-covered portions of the Brazilian savanna (cerradao).

Up to 229 Landsat TM scenes can be used for each assessment, thus generating 334 map overlays--one for each topographic map at a 1:250,000 scale, which covers the region. The maps with the contour-tracings of incremental gross deforestation are then scanned, and a proprietary vectoring software converts the files into vector format. These vectors are then used to calculate the areas associated with changes in vegetation cover. Georeferencing is achieved on a scene-by-scene basis, using ground control points identified on the topographic charts. The resulting data on the extent and rate of gross deforestation, originally estimated for each cell (a unit defined by the intersection between the state boundaries, the topographic charts and the TM-Landsat scenes), are aggregated to the state level, topographic charts or TM-Landsat scenes. More recently the results have been aggregated at the municipal level, thus providing more precise information to policymakers.

The latest deforestation assessments for the years 1992 and 1994, conducted in 1996, indicate a slight increase in the extent and rate of deforestation in the Amazonia since 1991 (see Tables 1, 2 and 3). Until 1994, approximately 470,000 square kilometers of the area of original forest had suffered some type of change, or approximately 12 percent of the forest area in the Amazonia.


These dramatic figures have prompted immediate action from the Brazilian Government, including funding for updating the deforestation assessments for 1995 and 1996 and the establishment of a satellite data monitoring system for critical areas in the Amazonia. Approximately 80 percent of the area of changes in forest cover in the Amazonia is concentrated in 38 Landsat TM scenes (out of the 229).


In addition to being instrumental in monitoring deforestation in the Amazonia, PRODES' georeferenced data constitute an important source of information for the national inventory of net greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Technology. This information is important in light of the need to quantitatively reduce emissions as established at the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Biomass burning is another issue of serious environmental concern in Brazil. The detection and control of fires are complex tasks in Brazil, since fire is used in agriculture for the renewal of pastures, the removal of dry accumulated material and the preparation for the manual cutting of sugarcane. Considering the size of the country and the impossibility of assigning enough people to effectively control fires, satellite technology plays an extremely important role in this area as well.

The use of remotely sensed data collected in the thermal region of the electromagnetic spectrum to detect fire pixels was first reported in the United States in 1961.(21) Brazil has used data from NOAA satellites' Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) to monitor fires in the Brazilian Amazonia since 1985. The initiative was motivated by an international experiment jointly organized by NASA and INPE, called GTE/ ABLE-2A, which was designed to monitor pollution that measurably affects atmospheric chemistry.(22) This experiment proved that NOAA satellites could provide a relatively simple and cost-effective method to monitor burns on a daily basis. As a result, the Project for Satellite Remote Sensing of Burning was initiated at INPE in 1987 to create an operational system for fire detection and routine assessments of large burnings throughout the country in near real-time, using NOAA satellite data. Brazil is the only country in the world that generates daily information on the number of fires and their spatial location for use by IBAMA and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies in their inspection and control activities.

However, data on the number of fires alone do not provide all the information needed to assess the actual contribution of biomass burning to overall greenhouse gas emission. In fact, only about 20 percent of the anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide appear to be related to biomass burning.(23) Other greenhouse gases and aerosols are released into the atmosphere in significant amounts. The NOAA satellites, which offer the advantage of covering a wide area in a short time interval, cannot provide reliable information on the area affected by fire due to their 1.1 by 1.1 kilometer coarse resolution. The system is also constrained by sun glint in water bodies and in hot, bare soils, which are highly reflective.

A common error in the interpretation of satellite data correlates the number of pixels in thermal infrared images from coarse resolution meteorological satellites with the rate of gross deforestation in the Amazonia. Such interpretation of thermal infrared satellite data has proven to be unfounded due to four factors:

* the uncertainty of several orders of magnitude associated with the estimates of the size of fires, due to the large ratio between the size of the 1.1 by 1.1 kilometer pixel size and the mean size of fires;

* the variation in the speed of fire propagation, itself a function of wind and humidity conditions, as well as the characteristics of vegetation;

* in general, fire is used to burn vegetation already felled by mechanical means in the tropical rain forest region; and

* fire images can be distorted due to contamination of black body emissions by solar radiation reflected at different angles of illumination.(24)


As a result of the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 178 governments unanimously adopted a program of action for achieving sustainable development--the so-called Agenda 21. This should be seen as the start of a new era in an ecological revolution, the beginning of a global partnership for improving the quality of life around the globe without sacrificing environmental integrity.(25) Agenda 21 identified the need to study and monitor the environment, and recognized the important contribution of space technology to environmental monitoring and sustainable development, particularly in the areas of land-use planning and management, deforestation, desertification and water resource management.

At the March 1997 Rio+5 Conference held in Rio de Janeiro to evaluate the progresses achieved since 1992, it became clear that, notwithstanding the advances in dealing with critical issues such as climate change, biodiversity, deforestation and desertification, other important questions were still pending and need to be addressed to advance the goals set forth in Agenda 21.

For example, in his address to the opening of the special session of the June 1997 United Nations General Assembly on Environment and Development in New York, Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso averred that, "especially in urban areas, poverty and environmental degradation continue to be detrimental to the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world." He noted that "there is an urban environmental agenda which is just as important as the green agenda."(26) However, he also stressed that, while the environment should not be used as a pretext for protectionist practices, thus undermining the basis for an open and nondiscriminatory international economic system, the objective of achieving sustainable development should not be sacrificed in the name of false economic efficiency.

Several important large-scale projects related to the issue of sustainable development are presently under way in Brazil, including the Pilot Program for the Protection of the Tropical Forests (PPG-7), the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) and the Vigilance System for Amazonia (SIVAM). There projects are briefly summarized below.

The PPG-7 was proposed in 1990 at (he G-7 meeting in Houston, Texas. The proposal matured and was approved in December 1991 when the G-7, the European Union and Holland together pledged U.S. $250 million to be administered by the World Bank. The objectives of the Pilot Program include: the education of the Amazonia's contribution to global [CO.sub.2] emissions; demonstration of the principle that it is possible to harmonize economic and environmental objectives in tropical forests; and the protection of the tropical forests' genetic resources.(27)

The program is organized into four subprograms.(28) The natural resources policy subprogram aims to implement environmental management related to economic development in top priority areas chosen by the Amazonian states. The subprogram on conservation units and management of natural resources is comprised of six basic projects, of which two are already in operation and involve extractive reserves and the protection of indigenous lands and populations in the Amazon region.(29) The science and technology subprogram is designed to generate and disseminate relevant scientific and technological knowledge for the conservation and sustainable development of the Amazonia region. Finally, the demonstration projects subprogram is designed to reinforce society's capacity to develop solutions for the conservation of the Amazonian region, such as through the application of alternative methods of managing natural resources.(30)

The National Institute for Amazonia Research (INPA) and the Museu Emilio Goeldi, both in the Amazonia, have benefited from the science and technology subprogram through the building of infrastructure, the development of human resources and the publication of books and technical and scientific journal. This subprogram also supports 23 projects with innovative content, favorable to the improvement of the quality of life and sustainable development in the Amazonia, have been contracted and are in the implementation phase. Some of the projects are aimed at the development of technologies to recover abandoned and degraded pasture land, while others are studying ways to control malaria.

The creation of a database of plants and tropical fruits and their essential oils and aromas is also being implemented. The Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA)(31) is an international research initiative led by the Ministry of Science and Technology which aims to enhance understanding of the climatological, ecological, biogeochemical and hydrological systems of the Amazonia, specifically, as well as of the earth, in general.(32) More specifically LBA is centered around two key questions that will be addressed through multidisciplinary research in the physical, chemical, biological and human sciences. The first question is, "How does the Amazonia currently function as a regional entity?" The second is, "How will changes in land use and climate affect the biological, chemical and physical functions of the Amazonia, including the sustainability of development in the region and the influence of the Amazonia on the global climate?"

LBA's start date is determined by the availability of equipment, people and funds. The overall time frame for the project is officially 1996 to 2003. During 1996 and 1997, several preliminary activities took place, including NASA's announcement of the Opportunity for the Ecology component of LBA,(33) the submission of educational funding proposals, meetings of the scientific steering committee and several workshops to promote `an open discussion of the project in Brazil, the United States and Europe.

One cross-cutting issue addressed in LBA relates to the role of remote sensing and to its potential for integrating information and processes pertinent to ecosystem-atmosphere exchanges of carbon, trace gases, water and energy across a broad range of geographical scales. The temporal and spatial scope of satellite data provides a unique tool that can be used to study the dynamics of vegetation communities, including alterations, fires and natural dynamics of occupation by different species over time. LBA uses concurrent and retrospective satellite data to study physical climate, carbon storage and exchange, biogeochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, land surface hydrology and water chemistry, as well as land-use and land-cover. These are disciplines that pose questions that can only be addressed with basin-wide georeferenced fields and maps of land cover, or biophysical, meteorological and atmospheric data. The Brazilian satellites--SCD, CBERS and SSR--will all play an important role in LBA, a project which will undoubtedly enhance scientific knowledge of an area of extreme complexity.(34)

LBA will certainly yield important scientific information, providing a new understanding of environmental issues related to flows of energy, water, carbon, nutrients and trace gases between the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere of the Amazonia. New discoveries will provide a scientific basis for policies aimed at the sustainable use of the region's natural resources. The enhancement of research capacities and networks within and between Amazonian countries associated with LBA will also help to advance education and applied research on sustainable development.

SIVAM is overseen by the Ministry of the Air Force and includes essential activities related to the control of aerial traffic and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure in three regional centers--Manaus, Belem and Porto Velho--to collect, process and transmit data to the project's general coordination staff in Brasilia. The data will be used by some 16 ministries, more than 50 federal, state and municipal organizations and approximately 900 private institutions to support projects in the areas of health, environment, communications, safety, land-use and meteorology.(35) Since data from remote sensing systems, both orbital and airborne, will be fundamental to SIVAM, mechanisms to ensure a quick distribution of satellite imagery are currently being implemented.

SIVAM's environmental subsystem, for instance, will provide an extensive package of products, ranging from the monitoring of natural resource exploitation to the evaluation of the environmental impact of deforestation, biomass burning, mercury pollution, greenhouse gases, river basin contamination and floods. Data will also assist with regional planning initiatives and the evaluation of environmentally sound development. In addition to fieldwork, most of the products to be provided by this subsystem rely heavily on the use of satellite and airborne data.

Regardless of SIVAM's importance to Brazil, some aspects of the implementation of the environmental subsystem are still of concern. The first has to do with the inability of the existing orbital sensors to provide some of the information that SIVAM aims to produce, such as weekly updates on the extent of burnt areas. Even if the information could be acquired by airborne sensors, as planned, weekly assessments seem unrealistic in view of the high density of fires in Brazil from June to November and the extent of the Amazonia region. A second concern is the risk that resources will be wasted through the duplication of products that are currently being produced by other Brazilian institutions, as in the case of annual deforestation assessments, the distribution of fires and ecological economic zoning.


In his presentation of the National Program of Space Activities for the period 1996 to 2005, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso stated that "no country can ignore that the ample control of space technologies constitutes one of the pillars for the solution of immediate and complex problems of contemporary societies."(36) He also noted the importance of the decision made more than 30 years ago to delineate and develop a space program oriented towards the peaceful use of space to serve Brazil's socioeconomic needs. It is undeniable that space technology plays a strong and relevant role in Brazil, especially when remotely sensed data can provide vital information on the country's environment.

The interest of the Brazilian Government in implementing an integrated national policy to improve the quality of life of the Amazonia population through sustainable development underscores the worldwide importance of this region and the need to develop technologies to enhance our ability to understand its complex environment.

It is clear from the Space Activities Program, and the several programs presently underway in the Amazonia region, that the use of space technology in Brazil, especially to improve the monitoring and the protection of the country's natural resources, is of unquestionable importance. Obviously, the role of remotely sensed data in Brazil goes far beyond that indicated in this paper, which concentrated only on a few examples in the fields of deforestation and fire monitoring. Applications in oceanography, geology, water studies, agriculture and urban and regional studies are abundant and further strengthen the need for ever-growing investments in space technology.

In addition, international space programs in the near future (such as the European ENVISAT), as well as the increasing spatial resolution capabilities of the sensors aboard new satellites (such as that in the U.S. satellite Quick Bird, launched in December 1997), will open new opportunities for research, constituting additional tools for environmental monitoring, control and protection in Brazil.

(1) UNDP Project BRA/95/G31/COPPETEC, "Enabling Brazil to Fulfill its Commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," Relatorio das emisstes de carbono derivadas do sistema energetico: abordagem top-down (Instituto Alberto Luiz Coimbra de Pos-Graduacao e Pesquisa de Engenharia--COPPE/UFRJ). Report available in February 1998.

(2) Instituto de Aeronautica e Espaco.

(3) Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais.

(4) Comissao Brasileira de Atividades Espaciais.

(5) Missao Espacial Completa Brasileira: MEC-B.

(6) Agencia Espacial Brasileira.

(7) The data is available at

(8) Departamento Nacional de Aguas e Energia Eletrica.

(9) Fabiola de Oliveira, Brazil Reaches the Space: SCD-I Data Collection Satellite (Sao Paulo: Proposta Editorial, 1997) p. 74.

(10) Agencia Espacial Brasileira. Notes from the meeting of the High Council (1997).

(11) The Satelite de Sensoriamento Remoto (SSR-1) will orbit at 900 kilometers and provide coverage at a range of 5 degrees north to 15 degrees south.

(12) O.L. Bogossian et al., "Brasil Cria Satelite Para Fotografar Amazonia," Ciencia Hoje, 20, no. 115 (1996) pp. 58-61.

(13) Stereoscopic images are pairs of images that provide a three-dimensional view of particular regions.

(14) CBERS: China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (Sao Jose dos Campos: INPE, 1994) p. 5.

(15) These simulated images are available at INPE's website at

(16) Programa Nacional de Atividades Espaciais.

(17) David R. Sloggett, "Satellite Data: Processing, Archiving and Dissemination," in Applications and Infrastructure (Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons, 1, 1994) p. 16.

(18) The Legal Amazonia is an administratively defined region of approximately 5 million square kilometers comprising eight states and portions of two others. The region benefits from special Brazilian government policies.

(19) Projeto de Desflorestamento.

(20) "PRODES PROJECT 1992-1994" (INPE: Sao Jose dos Campos, 1997) pp. 1-4.

(21) J.R. Warren, "Infrared Application for Forest Management," Proceedings of the International Symposium on Remote Sensing, volume 2 (Ann Arbor: ERIM, 23-30 April 1980) pp. 957-965.

(22) M.O. Andreae et al., "Biomass-buring Emissions and Associated Haze Layers over Amazonia," Journal of Geophysical Research, 93, no. D2 (1988) pp. 1509-1527.

(23) M.O. Andreae and P. J. Crutzen, "Biomass Burning in the Tropics: Impact on Atmospheric Chemistry and Biogeochemical Cycles," Science, no. 250 (1990) pp. 1669-1678.

(24) Marcio Nogueira Barbosa, "Deforestation Assessment and Fire Detection Programs in Brazil," paper delivered at the Third Meeting of the Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest (Bonn: 1996).

(25) M.G. Chandrasekhar, V. Jayaraman and Udipi Ramachandra Rao, Space & Agenda 21: Caring for the Planet Earth (Bangalore: Prism Books, 1995) pp. v.

(26) Fernando Henrique Cardoso, "Discurso do Senhor Presidente da Republica na Abertura da Sessao Especial da Assembleia Geral das Nacoes Unidas sobre Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento" (New York: 23 June 1997).

(27) Programa Piloto para a Protecao de Florestas Tropicais do Brasil (Washington DC: World Bank) p. 12.

(28) See Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and the Amazon, Secretariat for Coordination of Amazon Affairs, "Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest" (1997) pp. 1-27.

(29) The other four basic projects are still in the planning phase, but aim to support forestry management in the Amazonia region, manage the natural resources of floodplains, parks and reserves, and monitor and control deforestation and fires.

(30) The two components of this subprogram, directed research and the establishment of science centers, are presently under development.

(31) O Experimento de Grande Escala da Biofera-Atmosfera na Amazonia.

(32) LBA Science Planning Group, The Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA): Concise Experimental Plan (Wageningen, Netherlands: Winland Staring Centre for Integrated Land, Soil and Water Resources, 1996) pp. 1-46.

(33) The Ecological component of LBA includes the following scientific themes: carbon storage and exchange, biogeochemistry, water chemistry and land use/cover change.

(34) Additional information about LBA is available at

(35) Embaixador Carlos Eduardo Pessoa Pardellas, Politica de Integracao Interna e Externa com Enfase na Amazonia (Paper delivered in Manaus: 27 October 1997, during the Amazonia em Acao meeting).

(36) Programa Nacional de Atividades Espaciais (PNAE): 1996-2005 (Brasilia: Agencia Espacial Brasileira, 1996).

Thelma Krug has been the general coordinator of Earth Observations at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) since 1996. From 1992 to 1996, she was head of the Remote Sensing Division at INPE and also coordinator of the SELPER/ Brazil (Latin American Remote Sensing Society and Space Information System). Dr. Krug is presently a member of the scientific steering committee of the Large Scale Biosphere/ Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) and of the Land Use Cover Change Core Project of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP) and International Human Dimension Program (IHDP). Her issues of special interest include Amazonia deforestation and biomass burning. Dr. Krug has a Ph.D. in spatial statistics from the University of Sheffield, England, as well as a Bs.C. and Ms.C. in mathematics from Roosevelt University, Chicago.
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Author:Krug, Thelma
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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