Monitoring Forest Dynamics from Space to Enable Sustainable Livelihoods and Biodiversity Conservation in the Amazon
This post was written by Karis Tenneson (Spatial Informatics Group & SERVIR Amazonia), Wendy Francesconi (Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT), Simone Staiger (Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT), and Anna Toness (USAID Brazil).
The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT is leading the development of a biodiversity and land use monitoring tool called TerraBio. TerraBio is a co-developed geospatial analysis tool that links in-situ biodiversity data with annual maps of habitat conditions. The objective is to monitor the effectiveness of private sector interventions to asses economic development activities meant to support biodiversity conservation in the Amazon. Under this private sector shared value conservation approach, initiatives and investments aim to generate multiple benefits, including enhancing biodiversity and other essential ecosystem services. To achieve this, best management practices that assign value to forest and/or increase tree cover and forest connectivity, are considered to improve the conditions necessary for the conservation of biodiversity, with species diversity as the end goal. Among the initiatives and investments Terrabio will assess, these can be classified into four pillars: (1) non-timber forest products, (2) agroforestry, (3) landscape restoration, and (4) conservation-focused innovation and technology driven initiatives. The challenge lies in providing evidence that demonstrates (or not) how investments in each pillar are profitable and growing local economies while improving and maintaining forest landscapes and their biodiversity.
TerraBio is being developed as part of a participatory action-research approach jointly with USAID/Brazil, to be applied to initiatives within the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA), and the Althelia Biodiversity Fund (ABF). Collectively, these initiatives seek to understand and promote the potential role of the private sector in supporting sustainable business models. Private sector supported initiatives can provide a pathway to develop a smart economy that utilizes the Amazon’s resources without exploiting them, or replacing them for non-native and non-sustainable productive systems.
The Catalyzing and Learning through Private Sector Engagement (CAL-PSE) for Biodiversity Conservation program, is implementing TerraBio’s evidence gathering approach. CAL-PSE monitors the evolving engagement and leadership process of developing private sector partnerships and networks, along with their impacts on biodiversity conservation, community wellbeing, local and regional economies and institutional change. Hence, CAL-PSE is contributing to the establishment of private sector-led platforms and partnerships interested in promoting sustainable business models in the Brazilian Amazon. CAL-PSE will generate economic opportunities meant to strengthen the sustainable production and commercialization of local products, which in turn gives economic value to activities that conserve healthy forests, habitats, and natural resources. Over time, preference for sustainable livelihoods and products is expected to displace those that lead to deforestation and biodiversity loss. In order to assess the effectiveness and track potential unintended consequences of the portfolio of investments and activities, timely information on the impacts to communities, businesses, forest cover, habitat, and biodiversity is required.
CAL-PSE is a USAID/Brazil funded program under the bilateral Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB). PCAB is a 10-year (2014-2024) biodiversity conservation program created in collaboration with the Government of Brazil and key partners. PCAB aims to ensure the integrity and conservation of the Brazilian Amazon ecosystem, by improving the well-being and socioeconomic status of rural and traditional communities living in the Amazon region. USAID/Brazil is a unique mission and is considered USAID’s first “Strategic Partnership” mission, demonstrating that a lean country office with a moderate budget can leverage partnerships and investments for impact by working with the private sector and building collective action in support of sustainable development. Focused on biodiversity conservation, USAID/ Brazil co-created the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA). From this experience, working with CIAT and Mirova Natural Capital, the PPA advanced the Amazon’s first blended finance impact investment fund focused entirely on biodiversity. Through the Althelia Biodiversity Fund (ABF), Mirova Natural Capital aims to deploy USD 100 million of blended finance into sustainable activities that protect, restore or otherwise improve biodiversity and community livelihoods in Brazil’s Legal Amazon (Amazônia Legal).
TerraBio as a tool and a framework will assess and monitor changes that occur across the Brazilian Amazon as a result of the initiatives and investments guided by CAL-PSE. TerraBio will provide insights on how these investments affect land use change and biodiversity conservation. The tool will monitor forest dynamics, and present information on changes in the amount, condition, and connectivity of forest habitat. It will also provide information on potential unintended consequences by tracking forest loss, degradation, and increases in forest fragmentation. This information will be monitored by creating maps of forest extent, agroforestry systems such as tree commodities, forest regrowth, and degradation; all of which will be created using time series analysis on publicly available satellite imagery. These layers will be aggregated and mapped to calculate overall forest cover, connectivity, fragmentation, and condition across watersheds. This information will be analyzed in conjunction with in-situ biodiversity data collected in the Amazon to assess the effectiveness of private sector lead initiatives and investments as sustainable development business models.
As part of this effort, SERVIR-Amazonia is contributing to the development, implementation, and dissemination of lessons learned by TerraBio. SERVIR-Amazonia is part of SERVIR Global, a joint venture between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR-Amazonia brings together local knowledge and some of the world’s best science in earth observation and geospatial technologies for the protection and improvement of environmental decision-making in the Amazon. Information provided by technologies such as TerraBio should ensure that end users of real time information can adapt their management interventions when required to effectively support the conservation of biodiversity in these vulnerable ecosystems and communities.
Through this collaboration between CAL-PSE and SERVIR-Amazonia, TerraBio will assess the changes in habitat condition against field-based measurements of biodiversity indicators to gain insight into the performance of each intervention and the potential for unintended consequences. Remote sensing results will serve to monitor and model impact on biodiversity conservation in project areas. TerraBio will provide robust, independent evidence to private sector organizations interested in investing and understanding the impacts of those investments, and will generate information to enable communities to better protect their forestlands and related livelihoods, building sustainable communities and landscapes for many generations.