MAAP #124: Deforestation Hotspots 2020 In The Peruvian Amazon

Base Map. 2020 Forest Loss Hotspots in the Peruvian Amazon. Data: UMD/GLAD, MAAP, SERNANP.

We have entered the peak deforestation season in the Peruvian Amazon, so it is also a critical time for real-time monitoring (MAAP’s specialty).

Here, we highlight the major deforestation events documented so far in 2020 (through August 23).

The Base Map shows the current forest loss hotspots, indicated by the colors yellow, orange and red.

Below, we present the most urgent deforestation cases, caused by gold mining and agriculture (both large and small scale), the current leading deforestation drivers in Peru.

The Letters A-I on the Base Map correspond to the location of the cases described below.

One of the key cases is the new illegal gold mining hotspot along the Pariamanu river (Letter A in the southern Peruvian Amazon).

Another important case is the expanding large-scale agriculture by a Mennonite colony that continues causing an alarming deforestation.

The other cases deal with small-scale agriculture, which cumulatively represent the main deforestation driver in Peru.

Urgent Deforestation Cases 2020

1. Gold Mining

In MAAP #121, we reported that, in general, gold mining deforestation has decreased in the southern Peruvian Amazon following the government’s Operation Mercury, but it does continue in several critical areas. The images below show two of these areas (Pariamanu and Araza) with alarming new deforestation in 2020.

A. Pariamanu

The following image shows the gold mining deforestation of 52 acres (21 hectares) of primary forest along the Pariamanu River in the southern Peruvian Amazon (Madre de Dios region) between January (left panel) and August (right panel) of 2020. We highlight that the Peruvian government has just carried out an operation against the illegal mining activity in this area.

Pariamanu case (illegal gold mining). Data: Planet, MAAP.

B. Araza

The following image shows the gold mining deforestation of 114 acres (46 hectares) along the Chaspa River in the Puno region, between January (left panel) and August (right panel) of 2020.

Araza case. Data: Planet, MAAP.


2. Large-scale Agriculture

C. Mennonite Colony (near Tierra Blanca)

We reported last year that a new colony of Mennonites caused the deforestation of 4,200 acres (1,700 hectares) between 2017 and 2019 in the Loreto region (MAAP #112). The following image shows the additional deforestation of 820 acres (332 hectares) in 2020 between January (left panel) and August (right panel).

Mennonite case (near Tierra Blanca). Data: Planet, MAAP.


3. Small-scale Agriculture

D. Jeberos

In 2018, we reported on the construction of a new road (65 km) cutting through primary forest in the Loreto region, between the city of Yurimaguas and the town of Jeberos (MAAP #84). The following image shows the deforestation of 40 acres (16 hectares) along the new road in 2020, between January (left panel) and August (right panel).

Jeberos case (near Tierra Blanca). Data: Planet, MAAP.

E. Las Piedras

The following image shows the deforestation of 64 acres (26 hectares) of primary forest in a Brazil-nut concession along the Las Piedras River in the Madre de Dios region, between November 2019 (left panel) and August 2020 (right panel).

Las Piedras case. Data: Planet, MAAP.

F. Bolognesi

The following image shows an example of deforestation (580 acres or 235 hectares) in one of the areas with the highest concentration of forest loss, located in the Ucayali region.

Bolognesi case. Data: Planet, MAAP.

G. Santa Maria de Nieva

The following image shows an example of deforestation(346 acres or 140 hectares) in another one of the areas with the highest concentration of forest loss, located in the Amazonas region

Santa Maria de Nieva case. Data: Planet, MAAP.

H. Mishahua River

The following image shows the recent deforestation of 168 acres (68 hectares) along the Mishahua River, in the Ucayali region. Just to the north, we documented extensive deforestation along the Sepahua River in 2019, where it also appears to be starting up again in 2020.

Mishahua case. Data: Planet, MAAP.

I. South of Sierra del Divisor National Park

The following image shows an example of deforestation (166 acres or 67 hectares) in another one of the areas with the highest concentration of forest loss, located south of the Sierra del Divisor National Park in the Ucayali region.

Mishahua case. Data: Planet, MAAP.


The analysis was based on early warning GLAD alerts from the Universidad de Maryland and Global Forest Watch.

To identify the deforestation hotspots, we conducted a kernel density estimate. This type of analysis calculates the magnitude per unit area of a particular phenomenon, in this case, forest cover loss. We conducted this analysis using the Kernel Density tool from Spatial Analyst Tool Box of ArcGIS. We used the following parameters:

Search Radius: 15000 layer units (meters)
Kernel Density Function: Quartic kernel function
Cell Size in the map: 200 x 200 meters (4 hectares)
Everything else was left to the default setting.

For the Base Map, we used the following concentration percentages: Medium: 7-10%; High: 11-20%; Very High: >20%.


We thank S. Novoa and G. Palacios for helpful comments to earlier versions of this report.

This work was supported by the following major funders: Erol Foundation, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC).


Finer M, Mamani N (2020) Deforestation Hotspots 2020 in the Peruvian Amazon. MAAP: 124.

MAAP #117: New Oil Road Deeper Into Yasuni National Park (Ecuador), Toward Uncontacted Indigenous Reserves

Yasuní National Park, located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, is one of the most biodiverse spots in the world and overlaps ancestral Waorani territory. In the recent MAAP #114, we showed the construction of four new oil drilling platforms (and access road) in the controversial ITT oil block, located in the heart of Yasuní.

Here, we show that beginning in mid-March 2020, we detected the construction of a new access road heading further south from the last platform (Image 1). As of early May, this road construction was 4.7 km through primary forest.

Updated: June 30 (4.7 km); June 14 (3.7 km); May 17 (2.2 km).

Image 1. Construction of a new 4.7 km oil access road deeper into Yasuni National Park between March (left panel) and June (right panel) 2020.

MAAP #115: Illegal Gold Mining in the Amazon, Part 1: Peru

Base Map. The main illegal gold mining areas in the Peruvian Amazon. Data: MAAP.

In a new series, we highlight the main illegal gold mining frontiers in the Amazon.

Here, in part 1, we focus on Peru. In the upcoming part 2, we will look at Brazil.

The Base Map indicates our focus areas in Peru*:

  • Southern Peru (A. La Pampa, B. Alto Malinowski, C. Camanti, D. Pariamanu);
  • Central Peru (E. El Sira).

Notably, we found an important reduction in gold mining deforestation in La Pampa (Peru’s worst gold mining area) following the government’s launch of Operation Mercury in February 2019.

Illegal gold mining continues, however, in three other major areas of the southern Peruvian Amazon (Alto Malinowski, Camanti, and Pariamanu), where we estimate the mining deforestation of 5,300 acres (2,150 hectares) since 2017.

Of that total, 22% (1,162 acres) occurred in 2019, indicating that displaced miners from Operation Mercury have NOT caused a surge in these three areas.

Below, we show a series of satellite videos of the recent gold mining deforestation (2017-19) in each area.

*Recent press reports indicate the increase in illegal gold mining activity in northern Peru (Loreto region), along the Nanay and Napo Rivers, but we have not yet detected associated deforestation.

MAAP #114: Oil Drilling Pushes Deeper into Yasuni National Park

Base Map. Oil Exploitation in Yasuni National Park.

Yasuni National Park, located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and forms part of the ancestral territory of the Waorani (see Base Map).

Under the ground of this vast area, however, are large oil fields.

In July 2019, the Waorani won an important legal victory to prevent oil activity in the western part of their territory (Block 22).

However, here we show the construction of new oil drilling platforms in the controversial ITT Block, in the northeast part of Yasuni National Park.

We calculated the deforestation of 57.3 hectares (141.6 acres) for drilling platforms and access roads within ITT and the adjacent Block 31.

In addition, incorporating edge effects caused by the deforestation, we estimate the impacted area is actually 655 hectares (1,619 acres), exceeding the limit of 300 hectares (741 acres) established in the public referendum of 2018.*

MAAP #112: Mennonite Colonies – New Deforestation Driver in the Amazon

Time-lapse deforestation in the “Tierra Blanca” Mennonite colony in Loreto, Peru. Data: Planet.

The Mennonites, a religious (Christian) group often dedicated to organized agriculture, are increasingly inhabiting the western Amazon (Peru and Bolivia).

Here, we reveal the recent deforestation of 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares) in three Mennonite colonies (see the Base Map below).

The two colonies in Peru (Tierra Blanca and Masisea) are new, causing the deforestation of 6,200 acres since 2017 (including 3,500 acres in 2019) in the Loreto and Ucayali regions.

The colony in Bolivia (Río Negro) is older, but deforestation recently began to increase again, causing the deforestation of 12,350 acres since 2017 in the department of Beni.

Next, we present a series of satellite image videos showing the deforestation in the three Mennonite colonies.

MAAP #111: Fires in the Bolivian Amazon – Using Google Earth Engine to Monitor

Recent fire in the dry forests of the the Bolivian Amazon. Data: Planet.

We begin a new series on how to harness the power of the cloud to improve real-time monitoring in the Amazon and beyond.

As the amount of data from satellite images has skyrocketed, so have the challenges of research teams to fully utilize this abundant and heavy (in terms of terabytes) information.

In response, tech companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have been offering their powerful computer power, via the internet (cloud), to help process, analyze, display, and store big data.

Here, we feature Google Earth Engine, which is designed for the free processing of geospatial information (including satellite imagery) and publishing results on web applications.

In our first example, we show the power of Google Earth Engine to help with fire monitoring in the Bolivian Amazon. As noted in our previous reports, the 2019 fire season in Bolivia has been intense, with numerous major fires in the Amazonian dry forests and savannas.

There is currently an urgent need for real-time monitoring of active fires to assist ongoing fire management efforts at the national level. In response, we developed the application described below.

MAAP #110: Major Finding – Many Brazilian Amazon Fires Follow 2019 Deforestation

In MAAP #109 we reported a major finding critical to understanding this year’s fires in the Brazilian Amazon: many of the 2019 fires followed 2019 deforestation events.

Here, we present our more comprehensive estimate: 125,000 hectares (310,000 acres) deforested in 2019 and then later burned in 2019 (July-September). This is equivalent to 172,000 soccer fields.*

Thus, the issue is both deforestation AND fire; the fires are often a lagging indicator of recent agricultural deforestation.

This key finding flips the widely reported assumption that the fires are burning intact rainforests for crops and cattle.

Instead, we find it’s the other way around, the forests were cut and then burned, presumably to enrich the soils. It is “slash and burn” agriculture, not “burn and slash.”

The policy implications are important: national and international focus needs to be on minimizing new deforestation, in addition to fire prevention and management.

This breakthrough data is based on our analysis of an extensive satellite imagery archive, allowing us to visually confirm areas that were deforested in 2019 and later burned in 2019 (see Methodology).

Below we present a new series of 7 striking timelapse videos that vividly show examples of 2019 deforestation followed by fires (See Base Map below for exact zoom locations).

MAAP #109: Fires and Deforestation in The Brazilian Amazon, 2019

Base Map. 2019 deforestation and fire hotspots in the Brazilian Amazon. Data: UMD/GLAD, NASA (MODIS), PRODES

The fires in the Brazilian Amazon have been the subject of intense global attention over the past month.

As part of our ongoing coverage, we go a step further and analyze the relationship between fire and deforestation in 2019.

First, we present the first known Base Map showing both 2019 deforestation and fire hotspots, and, importantly, the areas of overlap. The letters correspond to Zooms below.

Second, we present a series of 16 high-resolution timelapse videos (Zooms A-K), courtesy of the satellite company Planet. They show five scenarios that we have documented thus far in 2019:

  1. Deforestation (No Fire)
  2. Deforestation (Followed by Fire)
  3. Agriculture Fire
  4. Savanna Fire
  5. Forest Fire

The key finding is that Deforestation (Followed by Fire) is critically important to understanding this year’s fire season (see Zooms B-E).

We documented numerous cases of 2019 deforestation events followed by intense fires, covering at least 52,500 hectares (130,000 acres) and counting. That is equivalent to 72,000 soccer fields.

The other common scenario is Agriculture Fire in areas cleared prior to 2019, but close to surrounding forest (see Zooms F and G).

We are also now seeing more examples of Savanna Fire in grassland areas among the rainforest. These fires can be large — we show a 24,000 hectare burn (60,000 acres) in Kayapó indigenous territory (see Zoom H).

We did not observe major Forest Fires in the moist Brazilian Amazon during August, but we did document such fires in early March in Roraima state. As the dry season continues into September and October, however, forest fires become a greater risk.

Real-Time Satellite Information and Images of What is Happening in the Amazon

Following up on the current fires in the Amazon forests of Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru, we want to share with you our latest analysis of the situation. Please see today’s MAAP report, which provides real-time satellite data of the region and shows up-close satellite images of what the fires actually look like across all three countries, and how they are impacting Amazonian forests.

Continuous uncontrolled fires of this scale will bring the forest closer to an irreversible tipping point – a degree of deforestation at which the Amazon basin will no longer be able to generate its own rainfall and will become a fire-prone savanna. Some estimates place the level of deforestation needed to reach this tipping point at 20-25%. Current deforestation is at 17%.

That’s why our forest conservation efforts focus on prevention. We partner with local communities and landowners to develop and implement sustainable practices for forests and agricultural lands that reduce deforestation and build resilience against fires. We also work with national and municipal governments in Peru and Bolivia to ensure the protection of conservation areas that help keep us from reaching that tipping point.

In response to the current fires, we are collaborating with actors on the ground in Peru and Bolivia to generate reliable information to implement actions that will help local organizations and residents of the affected areas. Although we do not work on the ground in Brazil, our deforestation reports are available to the Brazilian government and public.

Read our latest MAAP report.

Statement on the fires in the Amazon forests of Bolivia and Brazil

The fires in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and Bolivia have been burning for three weeks now. Thousands of acres of forests have been lost.

Although Amazon Conservation cannot stop the current fires from happening – at this point, only national and local authorities can – we can help prevent them from happening.  We are doing our part to support current efforts in Bolivia, by working with several organizations to generate reliable information to implement actions that are helping firefighters and inhabitants of affected areas.

Amazon Conservation has been working on the ground in the Amazon of Peru and Bolivia for 20 years, and providing local communities and governments with fire prevention training and supplies, so that local people can be better prepared and at the forefront of preventing and fighting forest fires. We also work directly with land owners to help them manage their land in a more sustainable manner, to reduce fire risk, if they do happen, to limit their spread and impact.

Not only do we carryout this on-the-ground, in-country support, but we also provide governments and the general public with key information about new fires in the western Amazon. Using our real-time satellite monitoring program (MAAP), we quickly locate burning forests and report this information in real-time to local authorities so that they can take action on the ground before the situation escalates as it has in Brazil. By releasing this information publicly on our website, we provide the public with key data on deforestation that is happening now so that they can compel authorities to take action.

“The majority of fires are caused by human activity,” said John Beavers, Amazon Conservation’s Executive Director. “And only human activity can prevent and stop them. Now more than ever we need to band together. In the same way that the world came together to reconstruct the Notre Dame Cathedral when it burned, we must do the same for the Amazon now.”

Consider making a donation to prevent fires in the Amazon here: