Amazon Has Over 3 Million km of Unofficial Roads, Study Indicates

Federal data registers only 39,000 km, while AI analysis reveals that 41% of the forest is crossed by roads

An unprecedented mapping process was done using artificial intelligence to estimate the presence of 3.46 million kilometers of roads cutting through the Legal Amazon — of those, over 3 million are not official roads. The extension is nine times the distance between the Earth and the Moon (384,400 kilometers). Considered one of the main vectors of the deforestation and burning process, they are roads built by loggers, prospectors, and squatters, in addition to land owners — often from official highways. They cut through, in many cases, forests that stand preserved on public lands, conservation units, and indigenous lands.

ORG XMIT: 223601_1.- Nova Ubiratã, in Mato Grosso (Nova Ubiratã, MT, 12.06.2005. Foto: Fernando Donasci/Folhapress) - Fernando Donasci/Folhapress

The estimate was included in an article published in the specialized journal Remote Sensing, at the beginning of the month, by researchers from Imazon (Institute of Man and Natural Environment of Amazonia) The authors worked with an algorithm designed to detect rural roads from satellite images for the year 2020.

With the method, it was possible to obtain a level of identification of roads much superior to investigations made previously based on the visual interpretation of the satellite images by the analysts. Pathways almost imperceptible to the naked eye have been mapped out by artificial intelligence. In some regions, it has been detected up to five times more roads than the number of roads mapped using visual interpretation. According to the survey, most roads (55%) are on private land, 25% on public land, 12% on rural settlements, 2.6% on indigenous lands, and about 5% on state and federal conservation units.

Translated by Cassy Dias

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