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Envisat Symposium report day 3: Satellites supporting Kyoto - our future is in our forests

ng forests in temperate regions actually emit more carbon than they take in for their first decade of life it takes another decade to achieve a carbon 'break even'.

Growing forests are carbon sinks, but forests that are logged or burnt down become carbon sources. A team from Italy's Tor Vergata University dealt with using radar data to detect fire damage Envisat's cross polarization gives it an enhanced ability to detect burn scars.

Another group from the German-based Remote Sensing Technologies has been assessing ASAR's Wide Swath Mode to see burn scars across the vast forests of Russia two thirds of the world's boreal forests are sited within its borders, but they are often affected by fires.

In one vast fire east of Lake Baikal in 2003, some 202 000 square kilometres were burnt. MERIS and other optical sensors were used to home in on affected areas, then ASAR was used to peer through clouds and smoke mode, showing a successful ability to detect fire scars of up to two years old, particularly when snow melt or rainfall enhanced the signal contrast, making May to July the best time for burn scar detection.

These scientific studies show the potential of Earth Observation to support the forest reporting mandatory for advanced nation signatories to Kyoto; France has already used ASAR data to map forest coverage across the whole of French Guiana.

Jos Romero of the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment explained his country's participation in a pilot ESA Data User Programme project called Kyoto Inventory, using satellite data in support of forest Kyoto reporting. Also participating are partners in Finland, Italy, Norway and the Netherlands.

"We're interested in investigating this technology to fill in the gaps in current practices," said Romero. "We want to learn how space-borne products can be applied to carbon reporting."

As the Symposium heard, ESA is also carrying out a scientific project called GL
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.d'acunto@esa.int
39-069-418-0856
European Space Agency
9-Sep-2004


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