Congo Carbon Plan Kicks Off

10 October 2013

After lifting off this week from the chaotic urban jungle of Kinshasa, scientists guided a twin-engine aircraft over the real jungle. With a small onboard laser, they began sweeping the vast rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), bouncing photons off leaves and branches. The aim is to measure — and perhaps to preserve — the carbon locked up in the tropical forests that cover two-thirds of the country.

The data will also enhance scientists’ understanding of tropical forests’ role in global climate regulation. “We know very little about the tropics,” says Sassan Saatchi, a remote-sensing scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who is leading the data analysis for the project. “If these countries know how to monitor their forests quantitatively, it will help us solve the problem.”

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