Existing government agencies and research groups have failed to make full use of the thousands of satellite images of the Earth's surface collected each week to monitor tropical forests.
Now, a paper published by Dr Alan Grainger in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines how a new body – named the "World Forest Observatory" - could use satellite images to map the world's forests and how they are changing.
The paper also contains the first inventory of national forest surveys for tropical countries - the current method of documenting deforestation. It shows that in the last 40 years only half of countries have had the two surveys needed to construct a deforestation trend. A third have had only one survey, and a tenth no survey at all.
The study follows a timely statement by Gordon Brown at a Commonwealth summit press conference in Trinidad on Friday 27th November, that satellites will be needed to monitor implementation of a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme.
"The Prime Minister's commitment is vitally important," said Dr Grainger. "But satellites are not a magic pill, and so far we have failed to use them properly."
"We have the technology, but not the organization. In my plan an international network of scientists, collaborating in a World Forest Observatory, would use satellites to measure the world's forests just as astronomers use telescopes to observe the stars. We could ensure that taxpayers' money is wisely spent on REDD and make major discoveries about how carbon and biodiversity are distributed in forests across the world."
His research shows that a World Forest Observatory will not just need to monitor how deforestation rates decline in future. "To prove cuts in deforestation in a REDD scheme you must know the present deforestation rate accurately. This requires two recent forest surveys, but my research shows that only half of tropical countries at most meet this criterion. So a World Forest Observatory will also have to measure current deforestation rates to provide a reliable baseline."
Dr Grainger is part of an international team carrying out a feasibility study of a World Forest Observatory, with funding from the Sloan Foundation in New York. He has also advised the UN Convention to Combat Desertification this year on how to establish a global desertification observing system.
"There is growing interest across the world in making full use of the satellite technology at our disposal to measure the planet so we can manage it better", he said.
"If governments at Copenhagen give their backing to a World Forest Observatory it could be a major outcome of the conference and be the first in a network of global environmental observatories which will make a big difference to our planet."
Clare Ryan | EurekAlert!
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy