Moscow — A unique digital map of Eurasia’s forests, which is a key exhibit for the Russian pavilion at EXPO-2005 in Nagoya, might not make it to the World Exposition’s opening ceremony on March 25. At any rate, the National Exposition Committee has still not signed a contract with specialists from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Environmental Problems and Forest Productivity on completing the map. In particular, additional ground and aerial surveys of some regions need to be carried out. The committee says financial problems are delaying the work. An Academy of Sciences academician, Alexander Isayev, who is also one of the unique map’s authors, is sure that the specially designed demo of the map will be simplified and abridged, which will doubtless blunt the effect.
Nevertheless, the digital map of Eurasia’s forests is unique and unrivalled. The map gives a clear image of Russian forests, as large as life, in color, sound and seasonal variation, depicting their grandeur and natural beauty and encompassing every aspect of forest life, including vital problems. Reading the map using simple digital codes, one can find answers to various questions – about tree species, preserved areas, forest management and protection, etc. The map shows where fires have broken out in real time, environmental damage is being inflicted and where extensive tree felling is in progress.
Created by the Russian Academy of Sciences (represented by the Center for Environmental Problems and Forest Productivity) in collaboration with the EU’s United Research Center, the digital map of Eurasian forests is part of a global monitoring of the planet’s ecosystems. It is based on daily shots of the Earth’s surface from space, and uses filtered and combined images. The information is transmitted from France’s Spot-Vegetation satellite, which studies the planet’s flora. Processed and scrupulously compared with the results from ground research, the data makes for an ideal reflection of the image of the Russian forest.
The information received from the satellite is sorted by 10-day composites. The groundwork for the map was completed in 2000, and the data has been constantly checked and renovated since then. The satellite captures images at different times, which helps scientists follow changes during each season.
The map is pictorial and visually attractive, the conditional units of its color legend are approximated to a conventional forest management color scheme. Brown stands for larch woods, light green for mixed woods, deep green for coniferous woods, and blue for the tundra zone. Visitors can see any territory at any time and any season. Every image is digitally coded and can be played back and enlarged. The map helps reveal trends in the forest, large-scale changes, for example insect epidemics, diseases or fire spots. A remarkable scientific tool, it is also of practical value. For instance, the map can be used for monitoring forest fires and how they develop. Given a clear picture of the situation, fire-fighting resources can be used rationally and efficiently.