A plan to create a pan-tropical map of forest cover and carbon stocks is moving ahead with data now available on Google Earth, reports the Woods Hole Research Center.
The project, which uses cloud-penetrating radar to assess forest cover and structure, is part of an effort to provide a means to monitor and report deforestation, a critical component of the REDD mechanism, which aims to compensate tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.
The project uses data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) ALOS satellite, which is equipped with a radar sensor known as PALSAR. Data from NASA’s MODIS (optical) and ICESat/GLAS (lidar) sensors is also used.
Josef Kellndorfer, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, has worked extensively with radar sensor technology like that found on ALOS and says the project captures data that can be used to construct maps of global tropical forest cover on an annual basis. These maps can be used to establish a credible baseline for REDD initiatives.
“The PALSAR sensor proves as a very powerful system ready for deforestation monitoring,” he told mongabay.com. “[It] will enable us to build a data record of forest cover on an annual basis no matter what the cloud conditions are. We can even see through haze and smoke caused by forest fires.”
José Achache, Executive Director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a group that counts Google.org, Woods Hole, and NASA among its roster of members, said the work would help its efforts to develop a forest carbon tracking system.
“Satellite observations will be key to measure trends in forest carbon. We are impressed by the Woods Hole Research Center’s work, in partnership with JAXA and NASA. Systematically generated data sets such as the present pan-tropical compilation will significantly strengthen national forest tracking capabilities.”
The datasets can be viewed on the GEO-Forest Carbon Tracking Portal.
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