Satellites spy deaths in rain forests (Clark et al.)

December 10, 2003

The world's tropical rain forests are under increasing threats from clearing for agriculture, massive slaughter of wildlife, global climate change and the reduction of forests to ever-smaller fragments. Studying the effects of these changes on the keystone structural elements of these forests, canopy trees, has up to now been difficult, expensive and in some cases even dangerous. Now a tri-national group of researchers lead by Dr. David B. Clark of the University of Missouri-St. Louis has shown that new high-resolution satellite data can be used to obtain vital data on these rain forest giants. Writing in the January issue of Ecology Letters, Clark and his colleagues show that images from the newest generation of commercial satellites are of high enough resolution to allow identification of individual canopy trees and detection of individual tree deaths. The ability to locate and follow individual canopy trees from space, they suggest, will usher in a new age of global monitoring of the ecological health of tropical forests world-wide.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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