A crew led by Charles Harvey, an MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Alison Hoyt, PhD ’17, a postdoc on the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, has used exact satellite tv for pc elevation knowledge gathered from 2007 to 2011 to doc the environmentally harmful results of peatland drainage in Southeast Asia.
Tropical peatlands are completely flooded forests the place fallen leaves and branches accumulate for hundreds of years reasonably than decomposing. In lower than three many years, most of Southeast Asia’s peatlands have been deforested, drained, and dried for agriculture or different functions, leaving them weak to wildfires that spew air pollution and greenhouse gases. Even when unburned, dried peat quickly decomposes, releasing carbon and inflicting the bottom floor to subside, or sink, towards sea stage quicker than sea stage is rising.
Till now, measuring these results has required arduous treks by way of trackless swamps. However due to interferometric artificial aperture radar (InSAR), which may detect modifications in floor elevation with an accuracy of millimeters, the crew decided that over 90% of the peatland studied was subsiding at a median of virtually an inch a yr.
“That is undoubtedly a proof of idea on how satellite tv for pc knowledge might help us perceive environmental modifications,” Hoyt says. “This has actually thrilling administration implications.”