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Space Agencies, Google To Partner In Deforestation Monitoring

October 21, 2009

The head of an international earth observation group announced plans join forces with space agencies and Google to monitor deforestation, which accounts for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions.

“The only way to measure forests efficiently is from space,” said Jose Achache, Director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

“A highly accurate and fully operational global forest carbon tracking system is now possible due to the combination of high-tech instruments, advanced science and international collaboration,” he said.

The partnership will include resources from the world’s space agencies, which have vowed to help monitor deforestation through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). Agencies include the European Space Agency and the national agencies of Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and the USA.

“In addition to its contribution to scientific research, this operational system will be available to support the work of national policymakers, the Climate Change Convention, and the emerging carbon markets,” said Achache.

He told Reuters that Google has committed to allow the partnership to use its Google Earth service to obtain data that will help the group make annual assessments of forest carbon stocks.

Achache added that the cost of the project would be low because satellite data is already being collected by agencies for other purposes.

The space data consists of mid-resolution satellite images. Additionally, CEOS will be working to secure the interoperability of the necessary optical and radar (SAR) sensors and to ensure the long-term continuity and availability of satellite data, GEO said.

Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Guyana, Indonesia, Mexico and Tanzania have agreed to become “national demonstrators” for the project in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, Colombia, Peru and others have also expressed interest in participating, GEO said in a statement.

Other key contributors include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and GOFC-GOLD (Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics).

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