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Eyes in space map changing Congo rainforests

Posted by alec8c on July 26, 2010

British company DMCii is using satellites to acquire new images of the Congo rainforests from space, validating a system that can map the vast Congo Basin every year to measure changes in its forest cover. If adopted, the new system will provide more accurate and up to date information for forest management, policy making and programmes such as the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) throughout the region.

Spanning 2 million square kilometres, the forests of the Congo Basin are the second largest area of dense tropical forest in the world, rivalled only by the Amazon rainforests. However, little is yet known about the rate and location of the degradation of the forests of the Congo Basin, or their role in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Earth observation from space is the only way to effectively and efficiently manage such vast landscapes and to provide independent, regular and detailed information about changes in forest cover.

Until recently the resolution of satellite images was too coarse to provide effective local forest management and the data could not be provided in a timely manner, but DMCii now has the satellites, experience and software systems to do just that. Dave Hodgson, Managing Director, DMCii explains: “Our experience monitoring the Amazon rainforest and sub-Saharan Africa, combined with recently extended imaging systems, means that we could rapidly acquire high resolution cloud-free images of the Congo Basin to help the world better understand the location and scale of deforestation.”

DMCii uses a group of satellites called the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) to provide images of any part of the world every day. It is unique because each satellite is independently owned and controlled by a separate nation which includes African nations, but the satellites are coordinated by DMCii making it possible to image a specific place every day.

Satellite imagery provides essential “base data” that is used to create maps for local governments, foresters and independent auditors. This data can be combined with ground reports to target policing of illegal logging, or to measure the scale of forest clearing. For example, maps based upon the images can be used to identify forest clearance, which is near impossible to manage by foot patrol due to the vast scale and inaccessibility of the rainforests.


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