GUILDFORD, England, April 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
A new system of satellites will be needed to monitor the world's forests as part of the United Nations programme for reducing emissions from forest degradation, according to the University of Surrey's Professor Jim Lynch and colleagues in an article in this week's Nature science journal.
The REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) working group of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which meets in Bonn, Germany, later this month, must choose a system of satellites now that will be capable of mapping tropical forests at suitable resolutions and timescales.
The recommendations put forward from academics from Surrey, UCL and Leicester include two Earth observation systems. A constellation of five radar satellites must be built and launched to provide daily monitoring to spot illegal logging, which, as well as damaging forests, costs governments billions of dollars a year in lost timber and carbon credits. The operation of a network of optical satellites must be agreed, with a ground crew to manage it and to carry out weekly to monthly monitoring of forests to capture seasonal changes.
Professor Jim Lynch from the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey explains: "The tropics cover almost half of the Earth's land area, yet basic decisions have yet to be made on what observation systems should be used. We think that current mapping strategies are far too sparse and slow making it impossible to identify forest damage until at least a year later. We are urging policy-makers to back the right satellites and strategies to monitor and save the world's forests."
More than one billion people in the tropics depend on forests for their livelihood. The illegal logging trade is estimated to be worth between US$30 billion and $100 billion annually, with governments losing $10 billion each year in tax income. Stolen wood is estimated to depress world timber prices by up to 16%. As well as curbing these losses, halving deforestation rates by 2050 would ultimately lead to a warming saving of 0.14°C which the researchers believe is a small but crucial step towards potentially much larger carbon savings.
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SOURCE University of Surrey