Most detailed Amazon survey in 30 years will help fight deforestation

The Brazilian government hopes to uncover new species and tribes by “knowing the rainforest from within”

The Brazilian government is to conduct the most detailed survey of the Amazon rainforest for over 30 years.

According to Brazil’s forestry ministry, the tree census will take four years to complete and will provide detailed data on tree species, soil and biodiversity as well as the effects of deforestation, climate change and conservation efforts on the world’s largest rainforest.

The survey will also help to chart the increasing growth of settlements in the Amazon region as well as the indigenous tribes in the area, some of which are previously uncontacted.

Improved satellite imaging technology has already provided a wealth of useful data, helping the government to reduce illegal deforestation in 2012 to its lowest level since monitoring began more than two decades ago.

However, detailed knowledge about such things as biodiversity and the quality of forest can only come from a below-the-canopy survey such as the planned tree census. In the words of Brazil’s forestry minister, Antonio Carlos Hummel: “We are going to come to know the rainforest from within.”

The Brazilian government hopes the increased knowledge about the Amazon will help it to formulate future environmental policies. Environment minister Izabella Teixeira said: “We’ll discover species and gain knowledge about species becoming extinct, as well as information about the distribution of the forest and its potential economic use.

Brazil’s national development bank has promised to contribute $33m (£21.7m) to the project. Results will be published yearly as the survey progresses.