North Korea logging in UN preserve

North Korea logging in UN preserve

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US: Using NASA satellite data and Google Earth, a Purdue University researcher has reported finding evidence that North Korea has been logging in what is designated as a protected United Nations forest preserve.

Guofan Shao, professor of geo-eco-informatics, studies the Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve, a 326,000-acre forest preserve in North Korea. Since many researchers are unable to visit North Korea, Shao studies changes in the forest using remote sensing data.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization operates the Man and Biosphere Programme, which tries to understand the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and reduce that loss in 551 sites worldwide. Shao said Mount Paekdu – together with an adjacent biosphere in China – has the world’s highest plant biodiversity in a cool, temperate zone and is the habitat for many wildlife species, including the endangered Siberian tiger.

“This mountain is significant in terms of biological conservation,” he said.

Shao and his collaborators started noticing through NASA satellite data that there were some changes happening to the land in North Korea. NASA images didn’t have the resolution Shao needed to pinpoint what those changes were or how they were occurring, so he used Google Earth, which has a clear resolution down to 1 meter.

“Particularly in the core area, there should be no human activity – no deforestation,” Shao said. “But when you look at the data with Google Earth, you can see the forest is no longer intact.”

Google Earth images show that extensive logging has taken place in the North Korean biosphere. Shao estimated that as much as 75 percent of the forest in the core area had been removed in large strips.

Shao said he would continue to monitor the biospheres for changes in the landscape using remote sensing data and that he hopes the study will shed light on deforestation issues in East Asia. He said it is urgent to develop cross-border strategies that can combat both detectable and hidden degradations to preserve forests of ecological importance.

Shao collaborated with researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Jilin Changbai Mountain Academy of Sciences and Arizona State University.

Source: Spacemart