NASA, Google Earth catch North Korea logging protected area

Jeremy Hance
May 18, 2010

Employing satellite data from NASA and Google Earth, Guofan Shao, a professor of geo-eco-informatics at Purdue University, has established that North Korea is logging Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve. Since North Korea is off-limits to most researchers, Shao has turned to open-access satellite data to monitor deforestation on the UN designated Man and Biosphere region.

"Particularly in the core area, there should be no human activity—no deforestation," Shao said in a press release. "But when you look at the data with Google Earth, you can see the forest is no longer intact."

Shao first noticed changes in forest cover by looking at NASA satellite data, but to see closer resolution he turned to Google Earth. Their images showed the logging to be extensive: according to Shao, as much as 75 percent of the core areas forest has been lost.

"Hopefully more organizations, including governments, will pay more attention to the conservation issues there," Shao said.

Home to the Siberian tiger, Mount Paekdu along with adjacent areas in China possesses the world's highest plant diversity found in a cool, temperate zone.

Shao has asked to visit the site or to speak with North Korean officials, but his requests have been denied. He said he didn't know if the logging was occurring to make way for expanded agriculture in a country known for large food shortages, or if loggers were simply extracting timber.

Mount Paekdu (also spelled 'Baekdu'), which rises 2,744 meters, is sacred to Koreans as the founding site of Korea's first kingdom known as Gojoseon.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 18, 2010).

NASA, Google Earth catch North Korea logging protected area .