|Forest clearing and agriculture, Bolivia:
The area east of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was originally dry tropical forest. Starting about 20 years ago, as part of the Tierras Bajas project, people were resettled from the Altiplano to clear the forest and cultivate soybeans. Each agricultural "pin wheel" pattern is carved out of the forest and centered on a small community. The communities are then spaced evenly across the landscape at 5-km intervals. Roadways can be seen connecting each town center.
Why is this image unique?: Observations of land cover change from human spaceflight can be an important supplement to data from satellites. Photographs taken from Gemini and Apollo are the oldest records of Earth’s land use going back to the 1960s. Because of the problem of cloud cover in tropical areas, all images of deforestation patterns in the tropics become important records. Scientists use astronaut photographs in combination with spectrally calibrated data from Landsat and other satellites, to reconstruct the rates and patterns of change.
Astronaut photography has been used in other land cover studies (see reference below).
ISS002-E-5654, 16 April 2001, 800 mm.
The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov
Related Scientific Reference:
1. Wilkinson MJ, White LG, Lulla KP. Rapid Devegetation Around Rural Ghettoes in Northeastern South Africa. Geocarto International 1998;13:43-6.