It takes several thousand years for a forest to grow to its fullest and less than an hour to cut down a single tree. Now, thanks to satellite imagery, you can watch tens of thousands of trees cut down over the past decade in just a couple seconds.
University of Maryland geographer Matthew Hansen has partnered with Google Earth to process satellite images of several forests over the past decade to help track deforestation. The result: several time-lapse maps that are the most high-resolution map of global forests ever made.
In the video above, Hansen gives a tour of his maps that cover the whole globe and are accurate down to 100 feet. Using archived imagery captured by a NASA satellite called Landsat, Hansen and his team used Google Earth Engine computing to map a detailed view of global forests at 30-meter resolution that they say is a vast improvement over previous knowledge of forest cover.
We all know we’re losing the world’s forests exponentially but it’s difficult to say exactly how much and where. According to Hansen’s maps, the Earth lost about 888,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012. Less than half of that forest loss was gained during that period: only 309,000 square miles.
Tropical forests prove to be the most susceptible to deforestation with Indonesia showing the most forest decline. Before 2003, the country lost less than 4,000 square miles per year. Now, more than 7,700 square miles of Indonesian forests vanished every year. The high demand for tropically grown goods- like timber, soybeans, and palm oil- are the main cause of this massive deforestation linked to industrial development.
The good news? Hansen’s study shows <a href=”http://amazonaid.org/deforestation-brazil-28/”>the rate of deforestation in Brazil</a>, once the highest in the world, is slowly declining but even that small victory cannot balance out the increased rates of deforestation in many developing countries in Africa and Asia.
The University of Maryland team plans to continue this study with annual updates to the map, as well as using the data to study the <a href=”http://amazonaid.org/drying-rainforests/”>links between deforestation and climate change</a>.