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October 21, 2009

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Space agencies monitor forests

SPACE agencies and Google Inc are helping an international project to monitor forests by satellite to fight global warming, the head of an international earth observation group said yesterday.

Deforestation from Brazil to Indonesia is blamed for emitting about a fifth of all greenhouse gases from human activities ó plants soak up carbon as they grow and release it when they burn or rot.

ìThe only way to measure forests efficiently is from space,? said Jose Achache, director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which is linking governments, space agencies such as NASA and others in a new partnership to measure forests.

The system would aim to make annual assessments of forest carbon stocks, compared to a current five-year cycle.

Google, which offers satellite images via its Google Earth site, would contribute with a related project to be revealed later, Achache said.

Americaís NASA, the European Space Agency and national space agencies of Japan, Germany, Italy, India and Brazil were among those taking part in the forest mapping.

Costs would be low, Achache said, since satellite data were already being collected for other purposes.

Satellite images from the US Landsat go back to 1972 ó enabling the world to work out deforestation rates since then. A base year of 1990 might be used, in line with the UNís Kyoto Protocol for cutting industrial emissions.


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