InfoAmazonia Uncovers a Devastating Rise in Deforestation Rates in Brazil

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Earth Journalism Network, Washington, DC

The mapping platform extends its database to cover all 9 Amazonian countries

Gustavo Faleiros and his team at O Eco, a Brazilian environmental news agency, are the lead partners -- alongside Internews’ Earth Journalism Network -- in developing the InfoAmazonia data journalism map. This project uses digital mapping technology to aggregate stories produced about the Amazon, particularly those related to forests, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.

By aggregating stories using a map of the region the project aims to improve the public’s awareness of issues in the Amazon region. The data set includes information on deforestation, mining and oil exploration in the Amazon and both historical and contemporary figures on forest fires.

Each month, O Eco pays particular attention to the deforestation figures that are published by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). In Brazil, these figures are often announced with some fanfare, usually at a monthly press conference. But since a new Environment Minister has come into office, these press conferences have become a rare event on the calendar. This has a direct effect on the media’s interest in the data, and key statistics are often missed -- but not by O Eco. In August, when O Eco reporters analysed the data they discovered a 220% rise in the rate of deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil compared to figures from the same time the previous year. Media outlets from across the world picked up the story they produced, not only those inside the Amazon region, but also those, for example, on Nature’s Newsblog

This month Info Amazonia has spread its wings in a partnership with Terra - I, an organisation that detects land-cover changes resulting from human activities in near real-time. This partnership will extend InfoAmazonia’s analysis of deforestation data to Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname & French Guyana.

Faleiros, Project Director of InfoAmazonia says, “Giving journalists the access to data from nine Amazonian countries allows us to communicate that the Amazon region acts as connected ecosystem. It is essential that people in the region and other parts of the world understand the scale of the problem, whether it happens in Brazil, Colombia or Peru.”

The interactive mapping technology used by InfoAmazonia allows journalists, experts and a new breed of ‘citizen journalists’ to find and share information on the Amazon region. With the expansion of the data available the picture of what is currently happening in the region can only become clearer.