In 1998, NASA and the Central American Commission on the
Environment and Development (CCAD) signed a Memorandum of
Understanding for cooperation in support of CCAD’s
development of a Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. As part of
this cooperation, using satellite data, NASA is developing
land-use maps of Central America for use by CCAD.

A major milestone in this cooperation was met today when NASA
Associate Administrator for Earth Science Dr. Ghassem Asrar
traveled to Central America to present the NASA-created radar
mosaic of Central America to Ministers from the Central
American countries participating in CCAD.

The mosiac utilized radar images collected by the Japanese
Earth Resources Satellite (JERS-1). The JERS-1 satellite was
equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar sensor at L-band
frequency that was able to image any part of the earth’s
surface regardless of cloud cover and sun illumination,
frequent land imaging obstacles in the wetter regions of
Central America. This capability provides continental-scale
high resolution data acquired in a short time to be used for
a variety of applications such as coastal studies, mapping
and monitoring wetlands, and assessment of deforestation and
reforestation in tropical regions.

“This NASA-sponsored effort directly supports the expanded
accord signed on June 7 by the U.S. Secretary of State and
Central American Foreign Ministers in Washington,” Asrar
said. “Our partnership with these governments has been a
great success over the past two years, and as we begin to see
the fruition of our work, we now move on to the next phase,
providing these nations with a baseline map that will be a
foundation for future research.”

NASA centers, as well as NASA-funded investigators and
Central American researchers, are using satellite data to
develop maps classifying the land cover of the Central
American isthmus according to life zones, land-use types,
geological structure, hydrology and other Earth Science

NASA also will continue to support the development of the
CCAD’s environmental data and information system by providing
optical, radar and topographic remote-sensing data to the
CCAD. The agreement has initiated a partnership between NASA
and the countries of Central America and demonstrates the
utility of NASA Earth Science data and information for both
biodiversity conservation and sustainable-development

The membership of the CCAD consists of the Governments of
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras,
Nicaragua and Panama, which have all agreed to work together
within the CCAD framework to promote the sustainable
development of the entire Central American region.

In 1997, the presidents of the seven Central American
countries endorsed the concept of a Mesoamerican Biological
Corridor, running throughout the Central American isthmus
with the goal of integrating conservation and the sustainable
use of the region’s biodiversity into a framework for long-
term economic development.