Paris, 05 Jun 2003
ESA is providing data from its Earth observation satellites to monitor the tropical forests in French Guiana and help the French government meet its obligations under the international Kyoto Protocol agreement on global warming.
Like all the so-called "Annex I" signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, France is required to measure and reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions. But France is also the only such country possessing tropical forests, most of which are in French Guiana.
Tropical forests represent a vast store of carbon, while their deforestation represents a significant source of anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions. Ninety percent of French Guiana, or approximately 80 000 sq km, is covered with tropical forests and woodlands. French Guiana is also home to the European spaceport, shared by the French and ESA, at Kourou.
"The final objective is to estimate afforestation, deforestation and land-use changes," stated Alain Chaudron, technical advisor for international forests affairs at the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs. "The project is a continuation in tropical forests of the ones (ESA) is doing in eight European countries in the temperate zone."
Chaudron explained that the estimates should be provided at 1/2 -hectare increments, or 5000 sq m, and include corresponding carbon analyses to fulfil Kyoto Protocol commitments. They are provided as part of ESA's GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) Programme.
Representatives from ESA met back in early April with the French Inter-Ministerial Mission on Greenhouse Effects, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the French Ministry of the Environment to discuss details of the project.
In addition, the project involves others, including the Inter-professional Centre of Technical Studies of Atmospheric Pollution, the National Forest Inventory, and the National Office of Forests. Two French research organisations, SILVOLAB and GIP ECOFOR, have been commissioned to implement the field collection in French Guiana.
The project to assess the tropical forests in French Guiana grew out of a January meeting in Paris between Professor José Achache, director of ESA's Earth Observation programmes, and Pierre Eric Rosenberg, MAAPAR's director of rural areas and forestry. This meeting followed the presence of ESA at last autumn's United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention Eighth Session of the Parties in New Delhi.