Using Landsat imagery and cloud computing, researchers mapped forest cover worldwide as well as forest loss and gain. Over 12 years, 888,000 square miles of forest were lost, and 309,000 square miles regrew.
Global view of problems … and fixes
Applications for the new global forest map range from calculating how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests to identifying what countries are logging trees most ravenously. “Whether you are a tree hugger or a logger, this map could be useful to you,” Hansen noted.
The map does bring a new level of transparency to forestry accounting, he added. It opens up for the world to see the impact of Brazil’s conservation policy, for instance, where the rate of forest loss was halved to 8,000 square miles a year over the course of the decade.
The map also shows that Brazil’s deforestation reduction is more than offset by increased forest loss in places such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay and Bolivia. Overall, the forest loss in the tropics is increasing by 811 square miles a year, according to Hansen and colleagues, who discuss the map in a paper published today in the journal Science.