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NASA Tool Shows Where Forest Is Being Cut Down 70

terrancem writes "A new tool developed by NASA and other researchers shows where forest is being chopped down on a quarterly basis. The global forest disturbance alert system (GloF-DAS) is based on comparison of MODIS global vegetation index images at the exact same time period each year in consecutive years. GloF-DAS could help users detect deforestation shortly after it occurs, offering the potential to take measures to investigate clearing before it expands."
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NASA Tool Shows Where Forest Is Being Cut Down

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  • by musicalmicah ( 1532521 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:29AM (#40198965)
    I kept reading it as GLaDOS [wikipedia.org] instead of GloF-DAS.
  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:38AM (#40199009) Homepage

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration^H^H^H^H^H

    National Assorted Stuff Agency

  • Replanting? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:55AM (#40199097)
    How about showing where forests are replanted? In North Ameria, more than 2 billion trees are planted each year and the total forest coverage of the continent has increased considerably over the past century.
    • Re:Replanting? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DeathElk ( 883654 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:14AM (#40199165)

      Reforestation is fine and good, and an essential part of mining, agriculture and other planned land use that involves clearing. What this tool provides is insight into illegal deforestation, which can have a significant local impact on soil salinity, erosion and vulnerable native species.

      OK, I've said my bit. So bring on the rednecks whining about humans and their commercial needs overriding the needs of trees and animals, whilst completely ignoring the fact that the wellbeing of humans is directly impacted by the wellbeing of the environment in which they live.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mosb1000 ( 710161 )

        There seems to be this hypothesis going around that the environment is like a fragile house of cards, and disrupting a single part of it could cause the whole thing to collapse. This is the mentality that "rednecks" are complaining about. People who live and work in nature (rednecks, as you call them) know that the environment is damn near unstoppable (even annoyingly so at times). And they resent being "educated" by urbanites about the "frail" nature of the environment, which they know is actually quite ro

        • Re:Replanting? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @06:22AM (#40199915) Homepage Journal

          There seems to be this hypothesis going around that the environment is like a fragile house of cards, and disrupting a single part of it could cause the whole thing to collapse.

          Some people think that, true. But that's not the only argument for not killing everything you see.

          People who live and work in nature (rednecks, as you call them) know that the environment is damn near unstoppable (even annoyingly so at times).

          That sentence doesn't really make any sense. "The environment" is unstoppable? So apparently is the idiocy of your comment. That doesn't fucking mean anything. Individual species are "stopped" all the time.

          Certainly large scale destruction is possible, and would cause hardship to the earth's human populations

          Yes, and large-scale deforestation causes hardship to the earth's human population (we're all in this together) so what the fuck are you bitching about? You just like bitching about them damn vironmentalists with all their concerns?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Sure, but what we are concerned about is if the environment in which we can live is able to sustain itself no matter what we do.
          The environment can certainly sustain itself, but the one we can survive in may not be able to do that.

        • by ebuck ( 585470 )

          Environments do sustain themselves; however, they do not always sustain the populations within the environment. That might seem like a fine distinction; but, please pay attention to it, as we humans are the largest (and therefore the most likely to be upset by change) consumers of the environment.

          If wood disappears, housing costs will triple as we move to steel beam or concrete construction. The wood houses tend to disenigrate in 50 to 70 years, and economical concrete supplies are already limited, so a s

          • by adolf ( 21054 )

            The wood houses tend to disenigrate in 50 to 70 years, and economical concrete supplies are already limited

            I live in a wooden house which was built somewhere between 1850 and 1890. It's not currently disintegrating in any structurally meaningful way.

            The house itself is built on a limestone ridge. Indeed, limestone is very abundant around here. And IIRC, to get concrete, you pretty much just have to smash it, heat the smaller bits, and then recombine with water. It's not exactly high-tech, though parts o

            • by ebuck ( 585470 )

              If concrete was so much cheaper than wood, we would definately be using more of it here in hurricane central. It isn't, so it doesn't really matter how simple or complex the process is, the prices would likely go up.

              Any one person can live in a 150+ year old home built from wood, but everyone cannot find such a home, there aren't enough to go around. While your home still exists, do you really believe that every contemporary of that home is still housing someone?

              • That's not because houses from that era have disintegrated. It's because older house have fallen out of style (they tended to have low ceilings and be poorly ventilated, among other things) and people no longer want to live in them. Any structure left unattended for a long time will fall into disrepair, and even though the structure will remain sound for decades or hundreds of years, it won't often be worthwhile to renovate it. With concrete structures, on the other hand, it is worthwhile to renovate, simpl

              • Let's see... up here in Hampton Roads, concrete tends to be about $100 / cu. yard. Prestressed concrete [good for tornados as well as hurricanes] tends to be about $300/yd for piles, up to $750/yard for girders, up to $800+ for specialty tiny jobs.

                But if you can make something as simple as the piles -- using simple round spiral for its reinforcing, the prestressed concrete could be cheap. I'd say, 6" x 24" [or 30"] slabs with 1/2" prestress cables, and .315 steel spiral with 2" of coverage, with minor emb

    • by ahbi ( 796025 )

      Because that doesn't advance the correct political agenda.
      "We must distinguish between mere bourgeois science, which is concerned with sterile facts and predictions, and Revolutionary Science, which is concerned with what will promote the Revolution."

    • Re:Replanting? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:29AM (#40199221) Journal
      It does, it's all in the way you read the map, for example in a traditional topology map you can see valleys AND you can see hills, does the fact that erosion exits mean the hills are getting smaller or the valleys are getting wider? The global trend is currently toward deforestation so the article takes that as the background context, there is no need to feel your nation has been slandered. Look up "how to grow a rainforest" on TED talks if you're really interested in seeing how this technology has been used exactly as you propose for last 20yrs and with spectacular results.
    • Re:Replanting? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @03:05AM (#40199323)

      How about showing where forests are replanted? In North Ameria, more than 2 billion trees are planted each year and the total forest coverage of the continent has increased considerably over the past century.

      Actually most of what is replanted is what people intend to cut as soon as possible. Here in Maine the moment trees reach a marketable size they are cut. I had a real estate agent refer to 30 year old trees as old growth. The forests used to extend from coast to coast except for the great plains and the deserts. A small percentage remains even with the replanting. Trees are pretty critical to the environment. They're a major source of oxygen, plankton in the oceans are the number one source. They are also one of the bigger carbon sinks so when trees are cut down they stop collecting and any parts that are burned or allowed to rot release the carbon. You talk about the last century but the largest reduction in forest coverage has happened in the last century. Even in the states replanting was rare until the last 50 years and even now most that are planted are earmarked for cutting as I said. Old growth are generally forests that have never been cut but that's probably less than 1% believe it or not. These days mature trees are called old growth but even that is misleading because a tree that is 30 to 50 years old and is 35 to 50 foot tall isn't old growth when the same species reaches 80+ feet and a 150 years old. A number of species reach a 100 to 200 foot tall, even White Oaks reach a 100', but trees of that size which used to be common are now rare. We can't keep leveling forests and burning fossil fuels without seeing a backlash. It's important to keep track of losses and gains.

    • Because with this tool, they'll know how many trees are replanted, instead of making wild guesses like you just did? More data is always a good thing.
    • I believe that trend is true for the US east coast where the early settlers basically denuded the landscape. We have increased from that point, not increased over prior European settlement. Greg
  • It is already known where deforestation is happening, like, Brazil and Indonesia, for instance. So? What can we do about it? Oh, wait we know have a system:

    offering the potential to take measures to investigate

    Well, that phrase will sure scare the living heck out of anyone doing deforestation!

    "Hey, kids! Get off my lawn, or I will get out my system offering the potential to take measures to investigate!

    And do we even have a right to complain about it? Europe and the US gave their forests a Burma Shave during their industrial revolutions.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Trace the wood back to the US end users and raid their factories?
      The Lacey Act/CITES can be very good for that e.g. ebony and rosewood.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @03:45AM (#40199427)

      Actually, it would be quite useful. I have a small house in an Eastern European country, which happens to be in an area where a EU-funded biofuel power plant is in operation. It took us (a small group of volunteers) nearly two years to notice and confirm that "biofuel" meant wood that is cut from a nearby forest and then burned in the plant.

      Took us that long to notice, because the forest is quite large, the cutting operation was carried out as routine forest maintenance (or whatever you call the regular cutting down of fallen and broken trees in English) and was started well inside the forest - a remote area that is hard to access anyway. In the end, the late discovery of the operation (and a host of other, political issues) made it impossible to save much. Had we found out about it earlier, the outcome would have been different.

  • I've used Google Earth and NASA World Wind in the past to visually find some clear-cutting, but it's not up-to-date and hit-and-miss and not exactly... clear-cut. This tool seems much MUCH better adapted.

  • when are you going to space don't forget about your earth :)
  • It would be good to have a visualization of forest cover on Earth gong back a couple of thousand years, to get some perspective on the issue.

    Couldnt be done with sat imagery of course, but from what is known of the historical record.

    • Go back 10,000 years and there were almost no forests, since almost the whole planet was covered with ice. So deforestation is a relative concept.
      • I'm not sure which planet you're referring to, but during the current ice age ice sheets only extended partially down the continents; in the case of North America, they extended over almost all of Canada and much of the northern US. A very interesting book on the biology of the current interglacial period is After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America [google.com] by E. C. Pielou. Many species which are now widespread held out in various "refugia" during the glacial periods; a striking example is

  • Typical, alarmist titles. In the summary "forest is being cut down", in the tool "forest disturbance. In many places, forests are expanding, but this is not shown by the tool - it only marks "disturbances."

    The NASA article: "The QUICC product identifies all land areas that have lost at least 40% of their green vegetation cover". It apparently does not show areas where cover as increased. Worse, it does not distinguish between permanent deforestation and forest fires. Fires are a natural part of the forest l

    • by Zorque ( 894011 )

      Uh... do you really believe that the rate of reforestation is significant compared to deforestation? On top of that, what's political about saying "the forest is being cut down" when that's an objective truth and something we all should be concerned about?

      Let me guess, you're one of those people who has a coronary every time the words "climate change" are used.

      • "...do you really believe that the rate of reforestation is significant compared to deforestation"

        In many places, yes. Example: "Forests cover 44 percent of Europe’s land area and they continue to expand." [foresteurope.org] Example: "North American forest stock...have risen by 3% from 1992 to 2006" [unece.org].

        Others have already replied in support of my other point: that many types of forest do, in fact, require periodic fires as part of their lifecycle. This is ought to be well-known - if you don't believe it, go do some researc

        • And yet - the tool's stated purpose is to help identify illegal logging and other disruptive human behavior so that it can be investigated as soon as possible. How would identifying reforestation sites help with that goal? Reforestation is extremely unlikely to require intervention of any sort.

          My understanding is that the target audience for this tool is not arm-chair environmentalists so much as policymakers and enforcement agencies in the individual countries where the damage is occurring. Especially i

    • Fires are a natural part of the forest lifecycle, and what is burned today will be green again tomorrow - these areas should not be counted in any measure of deforestation.

      Truer than you probably realize, in Michigan, the last of the Kirtland's Warbler [wikipedia.org] reside though the spring and summer, They've come back from the ragged edge of extinction, and these birds primarily nest in Jack Pine [wikipedia.org] scrub, because the Jack Pine, pine cone usually open during forest fires, their preferred nesting area is a nasty tangle of dead burnt trees and Jack Pine saplings. We annually start controlled burns to create new habitat for the Warblers.

  • by sehryan ( 412731 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @08:58AM (#40200429)

    I don't mean to sound like a dick, but as someone who makes web-based geospatial apps for a living, this is one of the worst things I have ever seen.

    Half the zooms don't make sense (US zooms all the way out, UK zooms to all of Europe), they have data listed in the drop downs that doesn't actually exist (July 2012), the popups tell you nothing (Country: Whatever, colored in blue, but not clickable), and to top it all of, the "larger" version has no way to access any of the data (no data selection, no zoom levels).

    • You do realize that you are looking at Google Maps, not QUICC, right? All they did was plot the locations of data points from their system on Google Maps.
  • If you see the brazil forest is being cut down, who are you going to run to and tell....the brazillian government, who already know it is being done, and are saying if north america was allowed to harvest all their trees, so should we, it is our right....to which we think we have a right to say, no you cant because we need your trees to continue providing oxygen for the planet..... weird how democracy only works for those that have it now....and not those that are trying to get it...

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor