Washington, October 19 : A University of Leicester professor has called for the use of modern radar technology for monitoring the rainforests.
Professor Heiko Balzter, the Head of Geography at the University of Leicester in the UK, told 200 scientists and foresters at an international conference in Brazil that, "We need advanced radar satellites for monitoring tropical deforestation and forest biomass".
The researchers from South America, the US, Canada and Europe had come together for the 8th Seminar on Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems Applications in Forest Engineering in the city of Curitiba, Brazil.
Professor Balzter had been invited by the Brazilian Space Research Institute (INPE) to speak at the conference about his work on monitoring forest biomass using remote sensing.
According to a recent FAO report (the Forest Resources Assessment 2005), Brazil had the world's largest deforested area between 1990 and 2005. The country lost over 42 million hectares of forest.
"With modern radar technology and knowledge of tree structures we can produce spatial carbon maps", said Professor Balzter, whose research has been published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment in 2007.
Trees take up carbon from the air when they grow. This helps slow down the greenhouse effect and global warming. When the trees are felled, this important function is lost.
"Radar uses microwaves to penetrate through the forest canopy. They measure how much wet plant matter and indirectly how much carbon is there in the forest," said Balzter.
"Our case studies in the UK have shown that using two radar antennas with different wavelengths can provide maps of the top of the forest canopy and the forest floor. The managed forests in Britain and the rainforest of Brazil are of course very different.
Nevertheless, similar results were found by scientists in Brazil," he added.