New Forest Map Of The World – A Standard For Monitoring And Analyzing Forests

November 19, 2013 – New high-resolution and high-precision map shows the dramatic changes in the forest cover on Earth, caused by logging, forest fires, insects and other damaging factors. The map shows the change in forest extent from the period of 2000 to 2012. Globally, 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost during 12 years and only 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained. The total loss of 1.5 million square kilometers of forest equals the surface of the whole State of Alaska!

The maps are a result of a new study based on data from the NASA-U.S. Geological Survey Landsat 7 satellite – an instrument circling the polar orbit and recording images of equal quality at all positions. Map creators are researchers from Google, NASA and the University of Maryland.

Matthew Hansen from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. who led the study, and his colleagues analyzed 143 billion pixels in 654,178 Landsat images to compile maps of forest loss and gain between 2000 and 2012.

The results show that the tropics exhibited both the greatest losses and the greatest gains (through regrowth and plantation), with losses outstripping gains. Indonesia’s deforestation rate doubled in the study period, while in Amazon it was tripled.

This is the first time so precise map has been made so now it is possible to zoom the data to a surface size of one baseball playground which is equal to the size of one pixel on the image recorded from Landsat.

This also allows precise insights into the forest cover change in every country. It is possible to analyze where the forest was burned or logged, where it is regrowing, where are the effects of natural hazards, etc.

The map allows scientists to compare forest changes in different countries and monitor annual deforestation. With this amount of detail, it is possible to tell local, regional and global stories.

From 2000 to 2012, 1.5 million square kilometers of forest were lost.

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 (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest were lost, and 309,000 square miles (800,000 square kilometers) regrew. Image Credit: NASA Goddard, based on data from Hansen et al., 2013.

The researchers published their work in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Science.

To view the forest cover maps in Google Earth Engine, visit: http://bit.ly/1aTS9M2