Thursday, August 27, 2009

Satellites reveal recent increases in Indonesian logging

Kate Ravilious in Environmental Research Web: Indonesian rainforest is disappearing fast. Forty percent of primary rainforest in the lowlands of western Indonesia was cleared between 1999 to 2005, and logging continues today. So how much logging is happening now, where is it occurring and how can it be discouraged? Scientists are using satellite images to help answer these questions.

It is very hard to keep tabs on logging in Indonesian rainforest, and estimates of the rate of forest loss vary wildly. For the current decade (2000 to 2005) the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated a clearance rate of 1.87 million hectares per year, while a pan-humid tropical forest clearing survey came up with a figure of 0.7 million hectares per year for the same period.

Using satellite imagery Matthew Hansen from South Dakota State University, US, and colleagues, have managed to resolve this discrepancy and provide a clearer picture of what is happening on the ground in Indonesia.

…The results show a dramatic reduction in clearing from the 1990s (an average of 1.78 million hectares per year) to the current decade (an average of 0.71 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2005). But hidden inside the average for the current decade they found a rapid increase in logging, rising to over 1 million hectares per year by 2005.

…Although depressing, these clear and reliable satellite estimates may help to bring about change. "Remote sensing can provide critical facts on what is going on in the forest and it brings transparency to the issue," said Hansen. "All parties, whether government, private industry, or civil society may use this information to better manage forest resources."

NASA satellite images of fires on Borneo and Sumatra, Indonesia

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