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First phase of pan-tropical forest mapping debuting at COP15

Tropical forest loss accounts for an estimated 17% of global emissions of carbon dioxide. As part of a strategy to reduce these greenhouse gas fluxes to the atmosphere, the UNFCCC's Conference of the Parties 15 in Copenhagen is working to adopt a strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the post-Kyoto climate treaty. For tropical nations to be effective in tracking and reporting their emissions reductions from forest management and conservation, baseline data sets enabling wall-to-wall forest mapping and monitoring are invaluable.

The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) has initiated a three-year project focused on producing spatially consistent pan-tropical data sets to support the monitoring of forest cover and associated carbon stocks stored in above-ground forest biomass. A circa-2007 high-resolution, cloud-free radar data set from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) ALOS/PALSAR sensor is the cornerstone of the pan-tropical forest cover mapping effort. A circa-2005 500-meter biomass product is being produced through the fusion of optical (MODIS) and lidar (ICESat/GLAS) data provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Pantropical mosaics of ALOS/PALSAR and MODIS data are now complete and can be viewed for the first time on Google Earth.

According to Josef Kellndorfer, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center who is leading the radar-mapping portion of the project, "Japan's cloud-penetrating ALOS/PALSAR sensor has greatly advanced satellite-based forest observation. JAXA's Kyoto and Carbon Initiative has been instrumental in pushing a global radar-based data acquisition and observation strategy since 2006. Given the strong sensitivity of the PALSAR sensor to forest classification, pan-tropical remote sensing of forests has been significantly improved, aiding countries in their ability to build robust national carbon accounting systems."


Contact: Elizabeth Braun
Woods Hole Research Center

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