Huge space satellite will measure effects of deforestation on New Zealand forests for first time

  • 26/08/2022

A huge space satellite is being developed by the European Space Agency that will measure the mass of earth's forests and will be a major piece of the puzzle to help us understand climate change.

The satellite will help the world get a better idea of how much carbon dioxide is being emitted by trees, allowing us to see the effects of deforestation in dense forests for the first time.

BIOMASS mission lead scientist Prof Shaun Quegan told Melissa Chan-Green on AM the project will send a satellite into space with one of the biggest ever space antennas to measure carbon dioxide in dense forests. 

"It sends a very special wavelength which is 70cm," Quegan explained. "When you send something that long down to the forest these wavelengths interact with things about their same size, so interacts with the big parts of the trees which are the trunks and branches and that's where all the BIOMASS is, and half that BIOMASS is carbon."

The tool is important because it can measure how much carbon can be gained by growing a forest or how much would be lost from deforestation.

"Forests have a really important role both in driving climate change and slowing climate change," Quegan said.

He said up until now, none of the instruments used was capable of measuring carbon in a dense forest - such as New Zealand forests.

The data from the project will be free to all users and if all goes well we will be able to start reaping the benefits from the end of 2023.

Watch the full interview above.