Identifying Spatial Units of Human Occupation in the Brazilian Amazon Using Landsat and CBERS Multi-Resolution Imagery


Ana Paula Dal’Asta (
Newton Brigatti (
Silvana Amaral (
Maria Isabel Sobral Escada (
Antônio Miguel V. Monteiro (


Every spatial unit of human occupation is part of a network structuring an extensive process of urbanization in the Amazon territory. Multi-resolution remote sensing data were used to identify and map human presence and activities in the Sustainable Forest District of Cuiabá-Santarém highway (BR-163), west of Pará, Brazil. The limits of spatial units of human occupation were mapped based on digital classification of Landsat-TM5 (Thematic Mapper 5) image (30m spatial resolution). High-spatial-resolution CBERS-HRC (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-High-Resolution Camera) images (5 m) merged with CBERS-CCD (Charge Coupled Device) images (20 m) were used to map spatial arrangements inside each populated unit, describing intra-urban characteristics. Fieldwork data validated and refined the classification maps that supported the categorization of the units. A total of 133 spatial units were individualized, comprising population centers as municipal seats, villages and communities, and units of human activities, such as sawmills, farmhouses, landing strips, etc. From the high-resolution analysis, 32 population centers were grouped in four categories, described according to their level of urbanization and spatial organization as: structured, recent, established and dependent on connectivity. This multi-resolution approach provided spatial information about the urbanization process and organization of the territory. It may be extended into other areas or be further used to devise a monitoring system, contributing to the discussion of public policy priorities for sustainable development in the Amazon.

Keywords: extensive urbanization; human occupation; Brazilian Amazon; remote sensing; multi-resolution data; digital image processing

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