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Planet launches Kagglers challenge to address Amazon deforestation

Every minute, the world loses an area of forest the size of 48 football fields. And, deforestation in the Amazon Basin accounts for the largest share. To overcome this burning challenge better satellite data can help a lot. Data about the location of deforestation and human encroachment on forests can help governments and local stakeholders respond more quickly and effectively.

To serve the purpose Planet and its Brazilian partner SCCON are challenging Kagglers to label satellite image chips with atmospheric conditions. Planet has released thousands of image chips from the Amazon basin labeled with information about atmospheric conditions and the presence of roads, mining, agriculture, human habitation, rivers, and more.

Kagglers from around the world have to label each chip as accurately as possible.

Planet's Imagery “chips” approximately 1 square kilometer large show examples of clouds, roads, habitation, forest, water, agriculture, mining, and other features.
Planet‘s Imagery “chips” approximately 1 square kilometer large show examples of clouds, roads, habitation, forest, water, agriculture, mining, and other features.

winner of the competition will get $60,000 USD in the prize. The first and second runner-ups will get $20,000 USD and $10,000 USD respectively. Planeteers and the remote sensing experts of SCCON will be active on forums throughout the competition to advise on technical details and the phenomena visible in the imagery.

The idea behind the competition is to spur on machine learning advances in the satellite imagery field. The labeled data can help build the tools to find and respond ecological changes. This data set will be the foundation for new advances in deep learning and forestry research at high spatial and temporal resolution.

How critical is Amazon deforestation?

Recently, ESA released a video that compares deforestation of Amazon River basin over the past 30 years. ESA compared a Landsat-5 image from 1985 with a Copernicus Sentinel-2 image from 2016 to show how vegetation has been cleared away for logging, farming and other activities. Data has been captured by Landsat-5 and Sentinel-2.Unlike other forests, rainforests do not grow back once destroyed and the soils are not suitable for long-term agricultural use. This is of great concern since more than a third of all species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest. More than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, the single biggest direct cause of deforestation is agriculture. Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32%; logging for 14%, and fuel wood removals make up 5%.

Save our forests

A World Bank interactive map shows Earth has lost a huge-1.3 million sq km forest cover in the last 25 years. Annual average loss of forests has been 50,000 sq km, an area almost the size of Costa Rica, as per data from World’s Bank’s 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.

During this time, Latin America lost 10% of its forest area while the loss in Sub-Saharan Africa was around 12%. Brazil alone has lost half a million sq km of forest or 531,670 sq km. This is almost the same area that China has gained (511,807 sq km). Despite the Brazilian government’s efforts at curbing deforestation rates, huge tracts of the famous Amazon rainforest are getting lost due to illegal logging and farming. (Get full insight here)

To help governments and policymakers to solve the issue, World Resources Institute as part of its Global Forest Watch network developed Landsat-based alert system. The system gives near-weekly alerts for changes smaller in size than a football field. The tool uses imagery from Landsat 7 and 8 to monitor forests across the world every eight days. That revisit time, or data cadence, together with Landsat’s 30-meter spatial resolution, allows land managers to know when small incursions into forests are being made in time to respond before further damage is done.

Know more about the Landsat-based tool that helps spot deforestation