A Revolutionary Tool to See Forest Change – In Your Neighborhood or Anywhere Else on Earth

from Wildlife Promise

0 2/26/2014 // By Ryan Sarsfield

Forest Loss (in red) and gain (blue) in and around Grand Canyon National Park. Screen capture from GFW.

Forest Loss (in red) and gain (blue) in and around Grand Canyon National Park.

Last Thursday a coalition of partners including the World Resources Institute, Google, the University of Maryland, and many others released an astounding tool to view the changes in the world’s forests, and it’s available for free to the public. Many years in the making, Global Forest Watch takes satellite data and cutting edge analyses, combined with user-friendly mapping technology for the internet to show all the forest we have lost and gained in the last ten years.

Intensive plantation forestry, among other land uses, appears as a dense mixture of forest loss (in red) and regrowth (blue) in the Southeastern U.S. Screen capture from GFW.

Intensive plantation forestry, among other land uses, appears as a dense mixture of forest loss (in red) and regrowth (blue) in the Southeast U.S.

Navigation is easy: pan, zoom, and explore the woods you and your kids go hiking in, the island you spent your honeymoon on, or the country where some of your supermarket products were grown. Zoom out to see some of the broader trends in the world’s forests: for example, the dense mix of red (deforestation) and blue (forest regrowth) of the great forest product industry of the U.S. southeast. Across the northern hemisphere you’ll see evidence of the immense temperate logging operations in the U.S., Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia, and closer to the equator the enormous red swath of the tropics in South America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia where forests have been cleared.

The red swath from the south to the northeastern Amazon shows Brazil's "Arc of Deforestation." Screen capture from GFW.

The red swath from the south to the northeastern Amazon shows Brazil’s “Arc of Deforestation.”

Other features of the system – and many more are in development – will let users view the active forest fires around the globe, the amount of carbon stored in tropical forests, conserved areas like national parks, and in some cases what forests are being used for. If your local forest has a story to tell, you can upload text and pictures to share with others, and you can even keep tabs on your favorite woods by selecting an area on the map to have the system send you an email when deforestation is detected there within the last month.

Global Forest Watch has great promise as a tool for citizens, governments, NGOs and the private sector to see more clearly what is happening in nature, and to use this unprecedented level of transparency to understand and protect forests around the world. Try it! GlobalForestWatch.org

The location of timber industries in the NE  and NW U.S. and Canada are easily seen on the map.

The location of timber industries in the NE and NW U.S. and Canada are easily seen on the map.