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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

You Too Can Monitor a Forest

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, November 14, 2013/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

In the mid-1980's, I was a team member to an innovative bi-partisan congressional office known as the OTA---the Office of Technology Assessment. One of our major initiatives was an analysis of and recommendations for "technologies to sustain tropical forests". Satellite remote sensing was one of the key technologies we identified as being a very useful tool to monitor and prevent deforestation. It looks as if some current researchers have read our report.

Just released, the University of Maryland, with the help from Google Earth maps, has provided an exciting new application showing the power of our early recommendation for satellite monitoring. They have produced a powerful tool
with a: global map of forest loss and gain
covering the time period of 2000-2012. Green areas are forested; red represents losses; blue increases; and pink shows both gains and losses during the time-line.

Interactive Map of Global Forest Change  (credit: University of Maryland)

Deforestation damages water supplies, depletes wildlife, and leads to unproductive degraded landscapes. It is particularly obvious from the granular, interactive maps of the Amazon and Indonesia but also of Siberia and elsewhere.


Deforestation in the Amazon and Indonesia Deforestation (credit: University of Maryland)

I don't know if the Congress ever read any of the OTA reports and acted on them but the Office is no more. Meanwhile, tropical deforestation continues largely unabated. However, OTA's legacy continues and the reports are still reprinted by  Princeton University

Maybe with the new tool from the University of Maryland will bring more attention to this environmental tragedy. Instead of Congress, anyone can now do their own investigation of forest situations and not wait on a disinterested institutional body.


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