NASA, Partner Space Agencies Measure Forests In Gabon
By Micah Moen
[Bird sounds] Researcher: You hear it kind of chirping? Like a bird? Oh yeah — got it. [bird and insect sounds] Fatoyinbo: So we’re about to go do an airborne campaign called AfriSAR. And the goal of our campaign is to go and measure cosystem structure — specifically forest structure forest height, forest carbon storage. We’re really excited to be going to Gabon because as it turns out, Gabon is the second-most forested country in the world and they have some really dense tropical forests that has not really been studied, extensively, especially from a remote sensing perspective. So remote sensing is what we do when we use satellites sensing perspective So remote sensing is what we do when we use satellites or airborne instruments to explore our planet. So what’s really exciting in Gabon is that they’ve been setting up all these field plots where they have very intensive measurements of forest structure of the species composition of a forest, of the age the forest, of how it’s growing, and so now we can compare our airborne measurements with the measurements that they’ve been collecting in the field. Saatchi: My name is Sassan Saatchi and my role would be to collect some data on the ground to validate and verify what we observe with our instruments on the aircraft. This is one of our plots, it’s one hectare. It goes 100 meter this way and 100 meter that way. So in one hectare of the land, in the rainforest, you can find more than 400-500 different species, packed. So it’s extremely interesting and it’s hot and it’s humid, and it’s all the — water is available sunshine is available, so it’s one of those places in the world that life actually constantly regenerates in different forms. So it’s very much interesting to go. And especially since it’s connects so much to our climate and to the whole Earth system, and has one of the largest impacts on the Earth system, both in terms of its carbon, regulating weather and water So it’s important for us to be there. Fatoyinbo: One of the questions that we’re really interested in at NASA is we really want to be able to balance the global carbon budget. So we know much carbon is stored in the oceans, we know how much carbon is stored in the atmosphere, and we know how much is emitted through fossil fuel burning for example into the atmosphere, but we don’t have a good idea of how much carbon is actually emitted into the atmosphere from forest fires and land use change. And we also don’t really have a good estimate of how much carbon is being taken up from the atmosphere and where it is stored, because most of that carbon gets stored by forests. So what we’re doing now by our AfriSAR campaign in Gabon is going to an ecosystem that is representative of a larger ecosystem in the Congo basin or tropical forests in general, and we’re getting some really really, high-resolution, very accurate measurements of carbon.