Mapping Altered Biomes: Tasso Azevedo and the MapBiomas platform
The Brazil LAB welcomed Tasso Azevedo, a leading Brazilian environmentalist and social entrepreneur, who discussed the groundbreaking research collaboration that he leads at the intersection of land use, forests, and climate change. In Mapping Altered Biomes, Azevedo illustrated that transformations in land use in Brazil have widespread and lasting impact since Brazil acts as one of the most important carbon storage sinks globally. There is more carbon stored in the earth’s forests than carbon to be extracted by 2100, Azevedo argued, making forests a service provider to the planet. Brazil contributes 13% of forests in the world, 25% of the carbon stored in forest, yet suffers the highest rates of deforestation and thus acts as one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world (3-5% of emissions). “There is no way we will solve this problem of climate if we don’t take care of Brazilian forests,” Azevedo contends. The MapBiomas initiative that Azevedo coordinates is a platform to produce annual land cover and land use maps at the country level, to provide sophisticated visualizations of data on transitions in use, including time series over 30 years for all of Brazil, that is open access to download, and is being used for monitoring and legal repercussions of deforestation. Azevedo’s presentation was followed with commentary by Director of the Princeton Environmental Institute and Professor of Environmental Studies and Engineering, Michael Celia, who discussed the feasibility of achieving a 50% drop in emissions over next decade, the remote sensing revolution, the potential of Brazilian politics to upend environmental protections, and applications for the mapping technology in public health and law, and the possibilities of expanding the MapBiomas initiative globally.