Between 2000 and 2012, Google’s Earth Engine crunched the data it had been gathering and displayed it in a web based application from researchers at the University of Maryland.  This gathered data from the satellite maps has shown a significant loss of forests.

The University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences has seen a loss of 2.3 million square kilometres (888,000 square miles) compared to the 0.8 million square kilometres gained (309,000 square miles).  This is an average loss of 0.6 % per year.

Google Maps Global Forestry Changes


Why is there such a loss?  The web tool, featuring the “High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st Century Forest Cover Change” paper in Science, clarifies: “The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometres per year…”

It continues, “Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.”

The high-resolution imagery from this mapping project allows researchers, for the first time, to clearly observe and see the areas that are losing the most forestry in the world.  The imagery is taken by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat 7 satellite.  As of 2008, the data collected was available for free which helped researchers overcome the barrier of cost which had always hindered researchers from accomplishing analysis of this type.

On top of this, Google also aided the project by allowing researchers access to the resources of Earth Engine.  Because of this, researchers could process over 650 000 high resolution images in just a few days whereas previously, it would have taken over 15 years to collect all that data with a single computer.

[Image via sparpointgroup]