Terra satellite imagery find drought may take toll on Congo rainforest

Terra satellite imagery find drought may take toll on Congo rainforest

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Congo: A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade. The study was led by Liming Zhou of University at Albany, State University of New York.

A view of the entire African rainforest area (green) transitions into a view of the region included in the Nature study, primarily in the Congo forest (mostly brown). The study area represents intact areas in the Congo rainforest where satellite data are high quality. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Above: A view of the entire African rainforest area (green) transitions into a view of the region included in the Nature study, primarily in the Congo forest (mostly brown). The study area represents intact areas in the Congo rainforest where satellite data are high quality. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

To clarify the impact of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest, Zhou and colleagues set-out to see whether they could detect a trend in a satellite measure of vegetation ‘greenness’ called the Enhanced Vegetation Index. This measure is developed from data produced by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite.

These changes in available water were detected in part with NASA satellites including the NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat), and NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center. The latter two missions are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Previous research used satellite-based measurements of vegetation greenness to investigate changes in the Amazon rainforest, notably the effects of severe short-term droughts in 2005 and 2010. The study found a gradually decreasing trend in Congo rainforest greenness.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory