Seeing the Forest for the Trees

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August 20, 2009

Growing up in Cotonou, Benin, JPL environmental scientist Lola Fatoyinbo passed polluted mangroves daily. Inspired to help save these endangered forests, she began a mission as a graduate student in the United States to gain more insight about African mangroves. Mangroves are the most common ecosystem in coastal areas of the tropics and sub-tropics. The decline of these forests threatens much of Africa's coastal food supply and economy, and has implications for everything from climate change to biodiversity to the quality of life on Earth.

Fatoyinbo's 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. In fact, Fatoyinbo's approach recently produced what she believes is the first fully plotted assessment of the continent's mangrove forests.

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Mangroves are a vital but endangered natural resource in many coastal regions. A JPL researcher has completed the first full assessment of Africa's mangrove forests.

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