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Stanford land-use expert brings satellite data down to Earth
Date:9/8/2010

By integrating remote satellite imagery with revelations from door-to-door interviews, Stanford University geographer Eric Lambin and his colleagues are exploring the complex conditions that give rise to a broad range of land-use challenges from the reforestation of Vietnam to the spread of Lyme disease in Belgium.

For decades, orbiting satellites have peered downward to gather information about the surface of the Earth, giving scientists an unprecedented view of the planet. Using this data, researchers have created maps of deforestation and other land-use changes over time.

Satellites are precise tools, able to measure the rate of photosynthesis in a tiny clump of trees in the heart of the Amazon Basin. But satellite technology reveals little about the people living beneath the canopy who decide the fate of the trees around them. For a deeper understanding of how and why humans alter their environment, researchers need to talk face-to-face with the people who live there.

"We really need a meeting between land-use studies and these new sources of information, like digital satellites," said Lambin, a professor of environmental Earth system science and a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment.

Through surveys and interviews, Lambin has uncovered the political, economic and social forces that contribute to the protection or destruction of forests and deserts across the globe.

"I develop integrated approaches to study land-use change by linking remote sensing and socioeconomic data," said Lambin, who divides his time between Stanford and the University of Louvain in Belgium, where he is a professor of geography. "To what extent do people have the technology or the knowledge to make the right land-use decisions? You can only answer that sort of question by interviewing people on the ground. You can't see that by satellite."

Reforestation and the secret furniture trade


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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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