Google images show North Korea logging into UN protected biosphere

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Washington, May 18 (ANI): North Korea has indiscriminately been logging into a protected UN designated forest preserve, a Purdue University researcher has claimed.

Guofan Shao, professor of geo-eco-informatics, has studied the Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve, a 326,000-acre forest preserve in North Korea. Due to North Korea's stringent regulations, he observed the forest's ecology using remote sensing data with the aid of NASA and Google Earth.

Shao said Mount Paekdu, together with an adjoining biosphere in China, has the world's highest plant biodiversity in a cool, temperate zone and is the habitat for many wildlife species, including the endangered Siberian tiger.

"This mountain is significant in terms of biological conservation," says Shao.

He began observing changes in the forest's terrain through NASA images, but found that the pictures didn't offer a high enough resolution for him to determine what activity was causing this. He then consulted Google Earth which offered sufficient clarity.

Upon investigating he found that large swathes of the biosphere had been stripped bare by North Korea, and alarmingly, the deforestation accounted for almost 75 percent of the forest's core area.

"It's kind of a disappointment," said Shao, whose results were published in the journal Biological Conservation. "Hopefully more organizations, including governments, will pay more attention to the conservation issues there."

The Chinese side in the Changbaishan Biosphere Reserve, also bore significant signs of damage.

However the cause of the damage was not logging but overharvesting of pine nuts that had ended up harming nearly every pine tree in certain zones of the reserve and all but eliminated a food source for about 22 species of forest wildlife.

In the wake of such extensive violations, Shao said he would continue to monitor these biospheres using remote-sensing data.

He believes it is urgent to develop cross-border strategies that can combat both detectable and hidden degradations to preserve forests of ecological importance. (ANI)

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