Feb 19, 2016

Japan to release satellite images of forests to combat illegal logging

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Japan will join international efforts to crack down on illegal logging in forests near the equator by releasing satellite imagery for free of areas under threat.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expect to post the data online from August.

Officials expressed the hope that the information will prove useful to dozens of countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America that are struggling to contain illegal logging.

These regions are home to roughly half of the world’s forested areas, and the sites of many illegal logging operations. “Forests must be preserved by whatever means in the fight against global warming,” said Masanobu Shimada, a senior researcher with JAXA. “Japan can contribute to the cause by monitoring forests by satellite.”

The 500 million yen project ($4.46 million) involves JAXA’s Daichi-2 advanced land observing satellite, which was launched in May 2014.

The satellite is capable of monitoring Earth around the clock, regardless of weather conditions. Its data has been primarily used to observe the spread of flooding and changes in terrain after natural disasters. But Daichi-2,with its advanced radar technology, also conducts surveillance of forests around the world.

The images to be uploaded will show the distribution of forests in equatorial regions, where it is hard to detect illegal logging on the ground.

Each image covers an area of 50 meters by 50 meters, and will be updated every six weeks or so. Daichi, the predecessor to Daichi-2, detected more than 2,000 instances of illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil from 2009 to 2012. Its monitoring helped cut back forest losses by 40 percent, according to the two agencies.