'World forest observatory' needed to cut deforestation rates, say scientists

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Washington, December 1 (ANI): A research by scientists at the University of Leeds, UK, has determined that a world forest observatory is needed to monitor the commitments that will be made by developing countries at the Copenhagen summit to cut their deforestation rates.

The research, led by Dr Alan Grainger, outlines how a new body - named the "World Forest Observatory" - could use satellite images to map the world's forests and how they are changing.

The research also contains the first inventory of national forest surveys for tropical countries - the current method of documenting deforestation.

It shows that in the last 40 years, only half of countries have had the two surveys needed to construct a deforestation trend.

The study follows a timely statement by Gordon Brown at a Commonwealth summit press conference in Trinidad on November 27, that satellites will be needed to monitor implementation of a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme.

"The Prime Minister's commitment is vitally important. But satellites are not a magic pill, and so far we have failed to use them properly," said Dr Grainger.

"We have the technology, but not the organization. In my plan an international network of scientists, collaborating in a World Forest Observatory, would use satellites to measure the world's forests just as astronomers use telescopes to observe the stars," he added.

"We could ensure that taxpayers' money is wisely spent on REDD and make major discoveries about how carbon and biodiversity are distributed in forests across the world," he said.

His research shows that a World Forest Observatory will not just need to monitor how deforestation rates decline in future.

"To prove cuts in deforestation in a REDD scheme you must know the present deforestation rate accurately. This requires two recent forest surveys, but my research shows that only half of tropical countries at most meet this criterion," according to Dr Grainger.

"So, a World Forest Observatory will also have to measure current deforestation rates to provide a reliable baseline," he said.

"If governments at Copenhagen give their backing to a World Forest Observatory, it could be a major outcome of the conference and be the first in a network of global environmental observatories which will make a big difference to our planet," he added. (ANI)

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