This is a color composite image of southern Bahia, Brazil, centered at 15.22 degree south latitude and 39.07 degrees west longitude. The image was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on its 38th orbit of Earth on October 2, 1994. The image covers an area centered over the Una Biological Reserve, one the largest protected areas in northeastern Brazil. The 7,000-hectare reserve is administered by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and is part of the larger Atlantic coastal forest, a narrow band of rain forest extending along the eastern coast of Brazil. The Atlantic coastal forest of southern Bahia is one of the world's most threatened and diverse ecosystems. Due to widespread settlement, only 2 to 5 percent of the original forest cover remains. Yet the region still contains an astounding variety of plants and animals, including a large number of endemic species. More than half of the region's tree species and 80 percent of its animal species are indigenous and found nowhere else on Earth. The Una Reserve is also the only federally protected habitat for the golden-headed lion tamarin, the yellow-breasted capuchin monkey and many other endangered species. In the past few years, scientists from Brazilian and international conservation organizations have coordinated efforts to study the biological diversity of this region and to develop practical and economically viable options for preserving the remaining primary forests in southern Bahia. The shuttle imaging radar is used in this study to identify various land uses and vegetation types, including remaining patches of primary forest, cabruca forest (cacao planted in the understory of the native forest), secondary forest, pasture and coastal mangrove. Standard remote-sensing technology that relies on light reflected from the forest canopy cannot accurately distinguish between cabruca and undisturbed forest. Optical remote sensing is also limited by the nearly continuous cloud cover in the region and heavy rainfall, which occurs more than 150 days each year. The ability of the shuttle radars to "see" through the forest canopy to the cultivated cacao below -- independent of weather or sunlight conditions -- will allow researchers to distinguish forest from cabruca in unprecedented detail. This SIR-C/X-SAR image was produced by assigning red to the L-band, green to the C-band and blue to the X-band. The Una Reserve is located in the middle of the image west of the coastline and slightly northwest of Comandatuba River. The reserve's primary forests are easily detected by the pink areas in the image. The intensity of red in these areas is due to the high density of forest vegetation (biomass) detected by the radar's L-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received) channel. Secondary forest is visible along the reserve's eastern border. The Serra do Mar mountain range is located in the top left portion of the image. Cabruca forest to the west of Una Reserve has a different texture and a yellow color. The removal of understory in cabruca forest reduces its biomass relative to primary forest, which changes the L-band and C-band penetration depth and returns, and produces a different texture and color in the image. The region along the Atlantic is mainly mangrove swamp, agricultural fields and urban areas. The high intensity of blue in this region is a result of increasing X-band return in areas covered with swamp and low vegetation. The image clearly separates the mangrove region (east of coastal Highway 001, shown in blue) from the taller and dryer forest west of the highway. The high resolution capability of SIR-C/X-SAR imaging and the sensitivity of its frequency and polarization channels to various land covers will be used for monitoring and mapping areas of importance for conservation.
Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar(SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The radars illuminate Earth with microwaves, allowing detailed observations at any time, regardless of weather or sunlight conditions. SIR-C/X-SAR uses three microwave wavelengths: L-band (24 cm), C-band (6 cm) and X-band (3 cm). The multi-frequency data will be used by the international scientific community to better understand the global environment and how it is changing. The SIR-C/X-SAR data, complemented by aircraft and ground studies, will give scientists clearer insights into those environmental changes which are caused by nature and those changes which are induced by human activity. SIR-C was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. X-SAR was developed by the Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur fuer Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) with the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer luft und Raumfahrt e.V.(DLR), the major partner in science, operations and data processing of X-SAR.
This image is in the public domain and is copyright free.