European satellite will monitor Earth's forests starting in 2020

May 7, 2013 at 3:42 PM

PARIS, May 7 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says it has selected a satellite that can "weigh" the Earth's forests -- their biomass -- as its next Earth Explorer mission.

The biomass mission, selected from three candidate concepts, will become the next in a series of satellites developed to further our understanding of Earth, a release from ESA's Paris headquarters said Tuesday.

The satellite, which isn't scheduled to be launched until 2020 will be designed to provide, for the first time from space, radar measurements intended to determine the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the world's forests and any changes in those measurements during a five-year mission, the ESA said.

"Biomass will give us unprecedented knowledge on the state of the world's forests and how they are changing," said Shaun Quegan of the University of Sheffield in Britain, a member of the team proposing the mission.

"This will give us a firm basis for treaties that aim to help developing countries preserve their forests, such as the U.N. reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation initiative.

"In addition, biomass will return information on national forestry resources, and that's important for things like energy and biodiversity," Quegan told the BBC.

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