Saturday, 22 August 2009

First Assessment of Africa's mangroves

Growing up in Cotonou, Benin, environmental scientist Lola Fatoyinbo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) passed polluted mangroves daily. Inspired to help save the forests, she began a mission as a graduate student in the United States to gain more insight about African mangroves.
Lola Fatoyinbo and research assistants from the University Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique
Her studies have brought her back to Africa, where she has journeyed along the coastlines to test a new satellite technique for measuring the area, height, and biomass of mangrove forests. She developed and employed a method that can be used across the continent, overcoming expensive, ad hoc, and inconsistent modes of ground-based measurement. Fatoyinbo's approach recently produced what she believes is the first full assessment of the continent's mangrove forests.

Fatoyinbo's height map of Gabon's mangrove forest canopy (left image) indicates heights ranging from 0 to 40 meters. In the right image, Fatoyinbo used Google Earth software to overlay the same three-dimensional height map of Gabon's mangroves. Credit: NASA/Temilola Fatoyinbo

"We've lost more than 50 percent of the world's mangrove forests in a little over half a century; a third of them have disappeared in the last 20 years alone," said Fatoyinbo, whose earlier study of Mozambique's coastal forests laid the groundwork for the continent-wide study. "Hopefully this technique will offer scientists and officials a method of estimating change in this special type of forest."

NASA 20/08 NASA researcher nets first measure of Africa's coastal forests
Fatoyinbo's original study on mangrove measurements in Mozambique, Journal of Geophysical Research
More about NASA's Lola Fatoyinbo