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May 12, 2009

Carbon assessment project grows under U.N. umbrella

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University researcher David Skole’s international carbon assessment project has become part of a larger program, with a May 11 announcement by the United Nations.

Earlier this year The World Wildlife Fund selected MSU to partner in a $5 million, 18-month project to develop systems to measure, monitor and manage carbon in landscapes worldwide. The tools developed under that tight deadline will help growers around the world better protect their land, improve productivity and fight global climate change, according to forestry professor David Skole.

Now, the program has been integrated into the U.N. Environmental Programme’s Carbon Benefits Project, he said. That is a $12 million project focused on Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and China.

Carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, is an increasingly prevalent greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Trees and other vegetation trap, or sequester, that carbon and in a world market where carbon emissions or capture are tallied and assigned value, growers in poor nations could profit from their land use choices.

Skole and his colleagues will help develop methods to establish carbon baselines and outcomes from land use activities in developing countries. The MSU group is specifically charged with developing remote satellite imaging systems to measure terrestrial carbon-sequestering activities in a variety of landscapes.

Such methods then could be adopted by development programs worldwide to help assess their environmental impacts, Skole said.