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Pacific Northwest Research Station
Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


USDA Forest Service International Programs
U.S. Agency for International Development
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Brazil Report
International Programs
USDA Forest Service
June 1998

Fire and Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems


  • Successfully integrated line scanner and digital camera aboard a Brazilian Air Force Lear jet and completed a remote sensing campaign to map selective harvesting and deforestation in Amazonia in May and June 1998. The Lear was unable to map recent fire activity in Roraima, despite a 3-week deployment, because of persistent low-level clouds.
  • Almost half of spring remote sensing campaign was conducted solely by IBAMA and Air Force personnel. Technology was integrated with Air Force group responsible for environmental monitoring under the SIVAM project.
  • Low-impact harvesting targets were successfully mapped on Tapajos National Forest with both the line scanner and digital camera.
  • Completed support planning for the July 1998 field season to include selecting and inventorying photo series plots in Chapada Da Diamantina National Park.
  • Completed data analysis of photo series sites inventoried at Emas National Park in August 1997.
  • Organized and planned a 6-week opportunity for a Brazilian graduate student to learn field vegetation inventory techniques in the United States.
  • Completed a draft manuscript for submittal to the Journal of Air and Waste Management on the exposure of rural residents to smoke from agricultural and other biomass burning smoke.
  • Completed support planning for the 1998 and 1999 field seasons to include flaming and smoldering combustion of tropical forest biomass, and primary forest flammability in Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso.
  • Selected experimental plots to study combustion of slash burn from deforested tropical evergreen forest.
  • Initiated a new research partnership with the Tropical Forest Foundation from Belem, Pará to conduct a fire risk assessment on low impact and traditional harvesting at the Floresta Nacional do Tapajos in the state of Pará.
  • Participated in the 5 year USAID planning meeting in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.
  • Selected study sites for risk assessment on low impact harvesting and primary forest in the Floresta Nacional Tapajos.

Sustainable Forest Management Technologies and Practices


  • In collaboration with the Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF), significant progress was made on the cost-benefit study to evaluate the economic competitiveness of low-impact logging versus conventional logging.
    • Logging productivity and cost data were collected for low-impact logging (LIL) and conventional logging (CL) activities in the Paragominas region of Pará.
    • Pre- and post-harvest inventory data were collected on LIL and CL blocks in the Paragominas region. These data were used to evaluate the harvesting intensity of LIL and CL operations.
    • Data on logging waste and damage to the residual stand were collected on LIL and CL blocks in the Paragominas region. These data were used to evaluate the economic benefits of LIL relative to CL.
    • Pre- and post-harvest inventory data, logging productivity and cost data, and waste and damage data were collected for LIL activities on the Tapajós National Forest. These data will be compared with CL data once a site near the Tapajós National Forest is identified.
  • Collaboration between TFF and the non-governmental organization IMAZON was established with the intent of comparing the TFF models with models implemented by IMAZON.
  • A preliminary report, “The Costs and Benefits of Low-Impact Logging Relative to Conventional Logging Practices in the Brazilian Amazon,” compares the costs and benefits of LIL versus CL in the Paragominas region.
  • A preliminary review of literature regarding the economics of LIL throughout Latin America was conducted. A paper titled “The Economics of Reduced Impact Logging in the American Tropics: A Review of Recent Initiatives” was presented at the Southern Forest Economics Workshop and will appear in the conference proceedings.
  • The Tropical Forest Foundation low-impact logging demonstration and training project on the Tapajos National Forest was substantially completed.
  • Significant leveraging of the USAID investments in low-impact logging and evaluation of harvesting effects on the Tapajos National Forest materialized through work of cooperating scientists.
  • Capacity-building opportunities for Brazilian cooperators were identified in protected area management, and non-wood forest products.

Fire and Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems

Activities and Progress

Activities during this reporting period involve continuing analysis of data from projects to assess the continental-scale emissions of greenhouse gases from widespread burning and preparation for and implementation of an aircraft remote sensing campaign to map selective harvesting and recent deforestation in the Amazon.

1998 Remote Sensing Campaign

At the request of IBAMA, the working group implemented an aircraft campaign in May and June of 1998 to map recent fire activity in the State of Roraima, to monitor rates of selective harvesting and deforestation over large regions of Mato Grosso and Pará, and to map the Floresta Nacional de Tapajos including recent demonstrations of low-impact timber harvesting.

This year we integrated both our Extended Dynamic Range Imaging Spectrometer, which has been designed specifically for fire measurement, with a high-resolution digital color camera system (ARTIS) aboard a Lear 35 aircraft of the Força Aérea Brasileira. The FAB Lear traveled to Kansas for modifications on the ferrings for imager ports and to California for equipment installation. In California, the aircraft and crew were hosted by James Brass and Robert Higgins at NASA Ames Research Center provided a specially modified Lear imager port and fitted both ports and sensors to the FAB Lear on short notice. The ARTIS system was made available to the program by the NASA Environmental Research and Sensor Technology Program (ERAST). The Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station has joined with ERAST in the deployment and application of lightweight compact remote sensing systems which are being developed for use in remotely piloted aircraft.

IBAMA personnel managed the deployment this year with early assistance from NASA and the Forest Service. The latter portion of the campaign was conducted solely by IBAMA and FAB personnel. Selective harvesting targets were successfully mapped as was the entire Floresta Nacional de Tapajos. The Lear was unable to map recent fire activity in Roraima, despite a three-week deployment there, because of persistent low-level clouds and rain throughout the period of the campaign. This year’s remote sensing campaign provided training for IBAMA personnel in management of the program and successfully integrated our technology with the FAB group tasked with environmental monitoring under SIVAM. We are now planning a second campaign in August 1998 to continue fire measurements in the Amazon region.

Rates of Land Burning

During this reporting period, we have continued analysis of fire occurrence across central Brazil by a change detection of ash-covered ground from successive scenes of Landsat Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) data. Analysis has progressed to add techniques for removing potential errors due to counting of cloud shadows with fire areas and to classify catalogued fires by vegetation type. We have also developed a frequency distribution of fire sizes for 173,000 measured fires. These data are being analyzed to determine the potential errors and utility for fire monitoring of future satellite remote sensing systems such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS). We have also begun analysis of perimeter-to-area ratios for a selection of fires which is also important in remote fire characterization. Analyses continue to indicate a lower fire return interval than previously described in the literature and are pointing to the difficulty of using fire “counts” as a meaningful measure of regional fire activity.

Analysis of Carbon and Energy Flux from Fires

The rates of carbon and energy flux from fires are key to our understanding of the potential role of tropical fires as an agent of global change. We have completed our analysis from experimental fires at the IBGE Reserva Ecolôgica during which we made nearly concurrent measurements of plume velocities, fire and plume temperatures, and gas concentrations. Analyses have also been completed of carbon and sensible heat flux from these and a range of fires in Cerrado and moist forest. We have integrated remote sensing-based measurements of radiant energy flux and fire temperature with the plume measurements to provide a complete picture of energy and carbon flux from a Cerrado fire. Results have demonstrated a linear relation between sensible heat and carbon flux across the range of extant fire conditions we have encountered in Brazil. Furthermore, we have shown that remote characterization of fire temperatures and fire line structure can provide useful estimates of the vertical component of wind over the fire and, from this and fire temperature, the sensible heat flux. Thus we have the potential for remotely measuring both sensible heat flux and carbon flux from major fires.

The fire measurements constitute a unique set of information that is valuable for the development and testing of fire behavior models. Toward this end, we have also begun the process of integrating these data with an interactive model of fire and atmospheric dynamics being developed by the Fluid Dynamics Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Web Site Development

The working group has begun construction of a web site to facilitate outreach for the project and provide access to important data sets. Among the first products to be available will be selected images of fire in the Cerrado, examples of patterns of selective harvesting, and products from the Reserva Ecológica do IBGE at Brasília including a high-resolution terrain map and registered imagery of vegetation at the Reserva collected by the EDRIS spectrometer.


Presentations were made on the fire and global change assessment at a workshop on remote sensing hosted by the Forest Service, International Programs, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and at a seminar sponsored by International Programs in Washington, D.C.

Photo Series to Assess Flammability in the Cerrado

The development of a biomass estimation photo series for a range of fuel types is continuing in cooperation with Dr. Heloisa Miranda and the University of Brasilia. In 1997, 10 sites were located and inventory within Emas National Park. An additional 10 sites will be located and inventoried near Chapada Da Diamantina in 1998. This field effort will complete the data gathering and the photo series will be published sometime in 1999. Logistical support and planning has been completed for the 1998 field campaign. There are no delays or shortfalls at this time. The project is on schedule.

Human Health Risk from Smoke Exposure in Amazon Communities

The analysis and assessment of the exposure of rural residents to smoke at a site in Rondonia has been presented at the Pacific Northwest Air Pollution Control Association, Forest Fire and Meteorology Conference, and at several training sessions in the United States. A manuscript for submittal to the Journal of Air and Waste Management has been completed. Continued interest by the Brazilian government and large areas of smoke impact from burning in 1997 and 1998 may lead to large support and a continuation of the original effort.

Fire Risk Reduction through Low Impact Harvesting

Initiated a new research partnership with the Tropical Forest Foundation from Belem, Pará to conduct a fire risk assessment on low impact and traditional harvesting at the Floresta Nacional do Tapajos in the state of Pará. The risk assessment will compare the change in flammability between low impact harvesting, traditional selective logging, and undisturbed primary forest. The fire risk assessment will be made on the same study plots that the Institute of Tropical Forestry is conducting an economic evaluation of the two logging systems at the FLONA Tapajos.

Fire Risk Assessment in the Amazon Forest

Continued the development of combustion algorithms of tropical biomass in cooperation with the Combustion and Propulsion Laboratory of the Brazil's Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), Cachoeira Paulista, Sao Paulo. Plans were initiated to implement a complete experiment 1998 and 1999 to study flaming and smoldering combustion of slash in three experimental plots at their experimental farm outside of Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso. Also, we assisted in the design and construction of a wind tunnel at INPE's facilities in Cachoeira Paulista to conduct burn under controlled conditions The burns will be used to study biomass combustion, fire physics, and flammability on the interface of the primary forest and deforested areas. Arrangements were made for logistic support the 1998 field season. This project will result in a fire risk rating system to predict fire danger during drought years in the Amazon basin.

Continued the support of a Brazilian doctoral student at the University of Washington and their dissertation research on the development of a fire risk model for Amazon forest landscapes considering forest physiology, fire meteorology, land use, and climate change.


Roger D. Ottmar, Research Forester, Robert E. Vihnanek, Research Forester

Dr. Philip J. Riggan, Ecologist/Project Leader Robert N. Lockwood, Ecologist Robert Tissell, Computer Analyst Jennifer Rechel, Geographer

James A. Brass, Ecosystem Scientist Robert Higgins, Electronics Engineer Dr. Edward Hildum, Electronics Engineer

Dra. Heloisa Miranda, Chair -- Department of Ecology Dr. Antonio Miranda, Micrometeorologist

João Antonio Raposo Pereira, Program Coordinator Helvecio Mafra Filho, Computer Analyst

Dr. Teresa Campos, Atmospheric Chemist

Joao A. De Carvalho, Cachoeira Paulista

Ernesto Alvarado

Sustainable Forest Management Technologies and Practices

Activities and Progress

Field Research and Demonstration

Within the Brazilian Amazon, the Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF) has been developing low-impact logging (LIL) methods which are being tested in several regions. Training programs have been conducted by TFF to transfer LIL knowledge and skills to local loggers and forestry professionals. However, because a comprehensive economic evaluation of LIL methods versus conventional logging (CL) methods has not been undertaken, the economic incentives for adopting the new methods are unknown.

The overall goal of this research is to evaluate the economic competitiveness of LIL methods relative to CL methods in the Brazilian Amazon. This will be accomplished by conducting a comparative financial analysis of the costs and benefits of representative LIL models relative to representative CL firms in several regions of the Brazilian Amazon. Representative LIL models are constructed using data from one or more LIL block. Likewise, representative CL firms are constructed using data from one or more CL operations. The preliminary report focuses on only one region, the “old frontier” region of Paragominas in Pará state, where we compare one LIL model with one representative CL firm.

To evaluate the costs and benefits of LIL versus CL systems, the Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF) established several 100 hectare cutting blocks at Fazenda Cauaxi near Paragominas. Block 1 (established in 1996) was the conventional logging block, and Blocks 2 (established in 1995), 3 (established in 1996) and 4 (established in 1997) were the LIL blocks. Pre-harvest inventories of commercial and potentially commercial trees were conducted on all blocks and, according to the Brazilian forestry code, permanent plots were established representing 1% of the area in each of the blocks.

Pre-harvest inventories were conducted for all commercial and potentially commercial trees that were greater than or equal to 35 cm d.b.h. on blocks 1 and 3. As part of the damage assessment, post-harvest inventories were also conducted.

To calculate the cost of each logging activity on a cubic meter basis for the LIL block, we needed to determine the productivity for each activity. This entailed calculating the rate at which the appropriate crew or individuals completed each activity. We obtained rates for all of the pre-harvest and harvest planning activities in hectares per hour (ha/hr). For harvest activities, we were able to calculate productivity in terms of cubic meters per hour (m3/hr). Productivity data was then converted to cost data using appropriate cost per hour data.

For the CL block, we used several data sets to construct representative productivity and cost information. Data were provided by TFF conducted surveys of CL operations in the region, IMAZON data, and data provided by EMBRAPA.

Analysis showed that the harvesting intensity on the CL block was somewhat higher than the harvesting intensity on the LIL block. Both the average number of trees harvested and the average volume harvested on the CL block were greater than the average number of trees and volume harvested on the LIL block. However, the volume harvested per tree harvested on the LIL block was larger, on average, than the volume per tree harvested from the CL block. This may be due to better recovery (less waste) in LIL operations, harvesting larger trees, or both.

Nearly twice as much ground area was disturbed by heavy equipment CL operations as was disturbed by LIL operations. Because regeneration is severely impacted by these sources of ground area disturbance, it is expected that LIL operations will have a significantly smaller impact on regeneration of future stands.

In addition to gains in skidding and log deck productivity due to planning, it was found that LIL operations significantly reduce the amount of wood wasted during the harvest operation due to more careful felling, bucking and skidding operations. Increased costs associated with more careful harvesting and bucking operations are more than compensated by the increase in volume and value recovered.

It was discovered that felling is the most important cause of tree mortality due to harvesting operations. The proportion of trees in the residual stand killed by felling on the CL block is several times larger than the proportion of trees in the residual stand killed by felling on the LIL block.

The preliminary analysis indicated that the total costs of CL operations are greater than the total costs of LIL operations on a per m3 and per hectare basis (but not on a per tree basis). This is because the gain in efficiency from skidding and log deck operations more than offset the increase in cost due to planning. LIL is more cost efficient than CL, and if LIL and CL operations were constrained to harvest the same number of trees, LIL would also generate larger net revenues per hectare relative to CL.

Low Impact Logging Demonstration

The Tropical Forest Foundation completed scheduled training for industry, community and IBAMA personnel on low-impact logging techniques on the two 96-hectare demonstration logging sites on the Tapajos National Forest near Santarem in the State of Pará. The training included harvest crews in October for local workers living in or near the FLONA, In addition two practical courses were held covering related activities such as inventory, data processing, map making, planning and low impact harvesting techniques. Safety was included in the curriculum.

Infrastructure supporting the harvest was completed during the period. This included primary roads, secondary roads, log decks and primary skid trails according to the approved IBAMA harvest plan.

The low impact harvesting of the two 96-hectare blocks was completed by the end of December with an outstanding safety record.

Field Research

Some progress, although not as much as anticipated, was made on the evaluation of the impacts of harvesting on the Tapajos National Forest. We are in a holding pattern awaiting the LBA agreement. This work is lead by Dr. Michael Keller from the International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

Dr. Keller visited Brazil in November 1997 and planned a follow up trip for May 1998 to attend meetings of the international LBA Science Steering Committee. Dr. Keller is co-chair of this committee which is charged with the task of coordinating overall activities of all LBA modules from Europe, the U.S., Brazil, and other South American nations. The LBA project is very closely related to the overall evaluation efforts on the Tapajos National Forest, and Dr. Keller’s leadership has significantly leveraged the number of scientists who are or will be working on the LBA-Ecology Module. The module includes over 120 investigators (mainly from the U.S., Brazil and Ecuador) with an expected budget of $U.S. 8 million annually for three years. An estimated $US 2 million annually is planned for the Santarem/Tapajos component of the project. These efforts will significantly increase the depth and breadth of scientific evaluation of harvesting impacts.

Notable accomplishments during this period include:

  • Agreement on a unified set of sites and a basic timeline (contingent upon international agreements).
  • Agreement on basic policies for international cooperation including development and approval of a data and publications policy.
  • Improved coordination with IBAMA personnel and NASA resulted from Dr. Keller’s efforts bringing together FLONA Tapajos (IBAMA)(Selma Bara Melgaco), Dr. Don Deering, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Project Manager for NASA), LBA Ecology for discussion of the future LBA-related research activities as well as the conclusion and report of the eco-tourism project conducted by Tom Holmes, USDA Forest Service. Discussed the upcoming work on economic evaluation of low-impact versus conventional logging. Dr. Keller joined Holmes and Boltz in the field at the FLONA Tapajos site to observe TFF LIL operations and to plan studies for the evaluation of logging impacts (costs).
  • Meetings in Belem with EMBRAPA, Amazonia Oriental General Director, Dr. Adilson Serrao, discussed plans for LBA and potential for collaborative work in the FLONA Tapajos. Meetings with a delegation from the Forestry Department of EMBRAPA focused on the same topic. Dr. Olegario Carvalho led this delegation and traveled to Santarem to meet with Keller at field sites in the region of Belterra. Gladys Martinez, local chief of EMBRAPA activities in Santarem, also participated.

Activities of individual researchers included the following:

  • Dr. Joe Wunderle from the International Institute of Tropical Forestry and colleagues at Museo Paraense Emilio Goeldi initiated analysis of initial bird species capture data and preparation of species lists. These lists will be delivered to IBAMA pending completion of species identification.
  • Auburn University’s harvest evaluation activities are on hold pending completion of contract action by IBAMA for the FLONA Tapajos timber harvest.
  • Jason Neff completed laboratory analyses for soil dissolved organic nitrogen and phosphorus. Isotopic analyses of nitrogen and carbon. Refinement of models to describe behavior of organic matter at the sites is being performed in USA.
  • Whendee Silver from the International Institute of Tropical Forestry and the University of California - Berkeley completed a manuscript describing the first survey of soil nutrients and roots contrasting soils in the FLONA Tapajos. The manuscript explores the potential for phosphorus to limit productivity through an implementation of the CENTURY model. This manuscript is currently being reviewed by Brazilian colleagues
  • Alan Townsend & Greg Asner (University of Colorado) & Mercedes Bustamante (University of Brasilia) performed analysis of satellite imagery and soil and vegetation samples from the vicinity of the FLONA Tapajos. The purpose of this study is to understand the role of soil phosphorus in limiting pasture productivity. This should provide insight into the degree to which pastures can be sustained. Satellite imagery allows for extrapolation beyond the immediate study areas. Soil and vegetation analyses were performed at the University of Brasilia and satellite imagery was analyzed at the University of Colorado.

Capacity Building Opportunities

  • The International Institute of Tropical Forestry focused on the identification and recruitment of qualified Brazilians to participate in three training sessions to enhance individual and organizational capacity.
  • The first related to the management and development of non-wood forest products for Selma Bara Melgaco on the FLONA Tapajos was delayed by the offering institution in Costa Rica.
  • IBAMA FLONA Supervisor Gabriel El Kouba was identified to participate in the Spanish language Management of Wild and Protected Areas course at Colorado State University.
  • A search was made to identify Brazilian candidates from IBAMA and among governmental organizations to participate in the International Seminar on Natural Resource Management to be held in August of 1998. This course is offered for senior-level people in natural resource related fields.

Difficulties Encountered and Solutions Reached

During this period some of the difficulties related to compliance with the permitting requirements under the Law of Scientific Expeditions administered by CNPq were resolved. Both the Neff and Asner agreements are being conducted under the Law of Scientific expeditions administered by CNPq. Many of the investigators working under the LBA program are awaiting execution of the final agreement between Brazil and the U.S. and the expedited clearance procedures contained therein. Other USDA Forest Service investigators have initiated CNPq permitting through their Brazilian collaborators.

As yet IBAMA has not completed the edital process for the timber harvest on the Tapajos National Forest. However progress has been made and issues related to the adjacent communities were largely resolved by actions under Brazilian law to exclude some areas from the planned harvest. A revised edital will be issued shortly, and initiation of harvesting activities is anticipated in the 1999 dry season. Meanwhile alternative strategies based on harvesting sites on private lands adjacent to the FLONA are being explored should the Tapajos harvest not be completed in time.

Dissemination and Training

A total of 7 people were trained in economic methods for research and analysis to collect and process the data described above.

Reports for this period include:

Boltz, F., T. Holmes and D. Carter. 1998. The costs and benefits of low-impact logging relative to conventional logging practices in the Brazilian Amazon. Proceedings of the 1998 Southern Forest Economics Workshop, Raleigh, NC.

Holmes, T., G. Blate, J. Zweede, and R. Junior. 1998. The costs and benefits of low-impact logging relative to conventional logging practices in the Brazilian Amazon. Preliminary Report to the Tropical Forest Foundation, Washington D.C.

Success Stories

Successful partnerships between TFF, IMAZON and EMBRAPA were formed. The collaborative effort will provide valuable information to the forest industry and to public forestry decision-makers.

USAID supported investment in forest management activities have been significantly leveraged.

  • The pilot demonstration projects of low impact logging supported by this component was successfully leveraged by the Tropical Forest Foundation. The International Tropical Timber Organization is funding their proposal to extend the low-impact logging demonstration and training to other countries in the region. About $1 million U.S. is being dedicated to this project.
  • Initial USAID supported activities at the Tapajos National Forest has attracted a large number of additional investigators and funding under the LBA -Ecology because of the key role identified for the site in the proposed LBA project. This will significantly add to the depth and breadth of analysis of the effects of partial harvesting treatments in these forests.


William G. Edwards, Assistant Director, provides overall leadership to the Forest Management component particularly institutional strengthening. Dr. Michael Keller, Research Scientist, provides leadership and coordination for the involvement of the numerous institutions working on the Tapajos and the LBA Ecology Module. Dr. Joe Wunderle provides expertise and leadership in avifauna component of the Tapajos Project. Dr. Whendee Silver, also University of California Berkeley, provides expertise and leadership related to soil nutrients and below ground processes.

Dr. Thomas P. Holmes, Research Forester. Dr. Holmes is the leader of the economic assessment of the costs and benefits of Low-Impact Logging versus Conventional Logging in the Brazilian Amazon.

Johan Zweede provides the leadership and expertise for the low-impact logging demonstration and training element of the component. Geoffrey Blate, and others. Data collected by TFF is essential to the economic analysis. IMAZON Paulo Barreto is collaborating in the economic analysis.

Dr. Doug Carter and Fred Boltz. Dr. Carter and Mr. Boltz are collaborating in the review of economic studies of LIL in Latin America as well as in the analysis of primary data provided by TFF.

Jason Neff provides expertise to describe behavior of organic matter at the Tapajos National Forest. Alan Townsend & Greg Asner (University of Colorado) & Mercedes Bustamante (University of Brasilia) provide expertise in the analysis of satellite imagery and soil and vegetation samples from the vicinity of the FLONA Tapajos.

For more information on these projects, please contact Jan Engert, International Programs/Brazil Coordinator USDA Forest Service 1099 14th Street NW, Suite 5500W Washington, D.C. 20005 Phone: (202)273-4752 Fax: (202)273-4748 email:

For further information, contact:
Dr. David Sandberg, Team Leader
3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, Oregon 97331 USA
(541)750-7265; (541)758-7760 fax
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