Global Forest Change

The first detailed maps of global forest change by Matt Hansen and Peter Potapov, University of Maryland; Rebecca Moore and Matt Hancher, Google.

From the post:

Most people are familiar with exploring images of the Earth’s surface in Google Maps and Earth, but of course there’s more to satellite data than just pretty pictures. By applying algorithms to time-series data it is possible to quantify global land dynamics, such as forest extent and change. Mapping global forests over time not only enables many science applications, such as climate change and biodiversity modeling efforts, but also informs policy initiatives by providing objective data on forests that are ready for use by governments, civil society and private industry in improving forest management.

In a collaboration led by researchers at the University of Maryland, we built a new map product that quantifies global forest extent and change from 2000 to 2012. This product is the first of its kind, a global 30 meter resolution thematic map of the Earth’s land surface that offers a consistent characterization of forest change at a resolution that is high enough to be locally relevant as well. It captures myriad forest dynamics, including fires, tornadoes, disease and logging.

Global map of forest change:

If you are curious to learn more, tune in next Monday, November 18 to a live-streamed, online presentation and demonstration by Matt Hansen and colleagues from UMD, Google, USGS, NASA and the Moore Foundation:

Live-stream Presentation: Mapping Global Forest Change
Live online presentation and demonstration, followed by Q&A
Monday, November 18, 2013 at 1pm EST, 10am PST
Link to live-streamed event:
Please submit questions here:

For further results and details of this study, see High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change in the November 15th issue of the journal Science.

These maps make it difficult to ignore warnings about global forest change. Forests not as abstractions but living areas that recede before your eyes.

The enhancement I would like to see to these maps is the linking of the people responsible with name, photo and last known location.

Deforestation doesn’t happen because of “those folks in government,” or “people who work for timber companies,” or “economic forces,” although all those categories of anonymous groups are used to avoid moral responsibility.

No, deforestation happens because named individuals in government, business, manufacturing, farming, have made individual decisions to exploit the forests.

With enough data on the individuals who made those decisions, the rest of us could make decisions too.

Such as how to treat people guilty of committing and conspiring to commit ecocide.

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