Earth’s forests get conservation boost from eyes in space
The Araca River in Brazil's Amazon, taken from a Landsat satellite.
Washington, D.C. – It was a historic day for Earth conservation today with the launch of NASA’s Landsat 8 earth-imaging satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite will enable continued global land observations critical to forest monitoring and conservation. WWF’s global Forest and Climate Initiative will use data made available to monitor deforestation rates in the world’s most threatened tropical forests, as part of its efforts in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
Landsat 8 is the latest satellite launched as part of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a joint program of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey started in 1972. The satellite will circle Earth 14 times a day at an altitude of 438 miles, returning over each location every 16 days. Imagery and data captured will be archived and made freely available at no cost.
WWF anticipates that scientists in key tropical forest landscapes – including the Amazon, Congo Basin and Indonesia – will be able to use the imagery generated by Landsat 8 to monitor, in near real-time, deforestation rates and to track these against established reference levels (RLs). This is significant, as it will enable nations readying for REDD+ to meet U.N. technical requirements calling for consistency between deforestation RLs and monitoring, reporting and verification – a critical step in moving REDD+ forward.
“The launch today of Landsat 8 should be celebrated by conservationists everywhere as an important step forward in the global effort to conserve the Earth’s most fragile and valuable tropical forests, and as a critical tool to realizing REDD+ conservation opportunities,” said Bruce Cabarle, leader of WWF’s global Forest and Climate Initiative.
In launching Landsat 8, NASA said it was, “continuing a 40-year legacy of conserving the Earth’s natural resources from space.”
Landsat 8’s imagery will build on data captured by previous satellites launched by the Landsat program – the world’s only historic and freely available earth-imaging system. This will give scientists around the world new, yet historically comparable views, of the impacts of nature and humans on the Earth’s surface over time.