A cutting-edge satellite, due to be launched in a month, will generate more accurate data to help monitor forests and the carbon they store.
plans to put into orbit a satellite with new precision technology in late
August, to monitor felling of its native forests round the clock and accurately
measure forest carbon stocks in a bid to help curb climate change, scientists
SAOCOM 1B satellite, manufactured in the South American country, was originally
due to be launched between July 25 and 30 from Cape Canaveral in Florida,
managed by experts from Argentina's National Commission for Space Activities
the weekend, CONAE said the launch date had been delayed until the end of
August, after SpaceX, the aerospace company whose facilities will be used to
get the satellite airborne, said it required more time to prepare.
satellite, equipped with the latest technology, represents a huge leap from
those that use optical sensors.
1B's main Earth observation instrument is a radar that works with microwaves in
the electromagnetic L-band space, providing information 24/7 about what it can
see: soil moisture, crops, forest structure and changes in glaciers.
is only one similar satellite developed by the Japanese space agency,"
Laura Frulla, head of research for the SAOCOM mission, told the Thomson Reuters
a very important advance because optical sensors work with sunlight, but
microwaves go through clouds, work in rain and don't need light," she
development comes at a key moment.
is not only in a health emergency due to COVID-19 but also in a forestry and
climate emergency," warned Hernán Giardini, coordinator of Greenpeace's
forests campaign in Argentina.
report published in 2015 identified Argentina as one of the 10 most deforested
countries in the world. Between 1990 and 2015, it lost forests equivalent to
the size of Scotland.
decline in forest cover has since slowed but continues, the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) said this year.
figures from the Argentinian government show 182,000 hectares were deforested
in 2018 - about half in protected areas - down from 350,000 hectares in 2012.
the first half of 2020, with coronavirus restrictions since March making it
harder to enforce protection, Argentina lost more forest than in the same
period last year, according to Greenpeace, which tracks optical satellite
during the quarantine, 21,000 hectares were deforested - an area equivalent to
the city of Buenos Aires," Giardini told the Congressional Natural
Resources Commission this month.
critical area is the Gran Chaco, a wide South American tropical and subtropical
region which includes four northern provinces of Argentina: Formosa, Chaco,
Salta and Santiago del Estero.
area, which captures 50% of the carbon stored in the country's forests, is also
where 80% of clearance takes place.
causes of deforestation are expansion of soybean cultivation and intensive
livestock breeding, as well as forest fires. The Chaco forests are cut down to
plant pasture and raise livestock for meat exports to China and the European
Argentina, the greatest deforestation occurs in the tropical area of Gran
Chaco, where dense clouds are common, said Pablo Mércuri of the National
Agricultural Technology Institute.
more information from this region we will be able to track native forests much
better," he said.
optical satellites used today do not capture images on cloudy days or at night,
but the new ones allow you to traverse the clouds and operate both day and
night," he explained.
1B will be complemented by SAOCOM 1A, put into orbit in 2018, which provides
some images but is still "in the process of calibration", Mércuri
will form a constellation that will provide greater variety and frequency of
data, in conjunction with satellites from other countries that use similar
X-band microwave technology but cannot penetrate forest cover.
Frulla said the new system will be useful because it allows monitoring of
changes in both planted and native forest that look different. Three hours
after logging or a fire, the affected area can be measured and its recovery
optical satellites which only provide estimates, the new system will accurately
measure biomass, whether it is dry or wet, the tree type, undergrowth and
humidity levels, she said.
satellites can also be used to detect areas at risk of fires, floods and crop
diseases, allowing for early warning.
L-band radar technology, which penetrates the surface, is dominated by
Argentina and Japan, and may be sold to other countries as the satellites
observe the whole of the Earth, passing twice a day at the same point, she
said radar satellites can capture the density of a forest and different
structures within it.
awareness of the importance of using forests sustainably, more and better data
like this needs to be produced, he noted.
forests are not even - they are very thinned by deforestation and in some areas
inaccessible," he said.
satellite information will make it possible to identify forest areas that
should remain pristine, he added.
system will also help quantify carbon stocks in the forest and soil, and
process is important to verify carbon credits that can be purchased to offset
greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.
technology will allow us to make high-precision inventories at the sites of
greatest interest," Mércuri added.
by Marcela Valente; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of
people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate