Forest change mapped by Google Earth
A new high-resolution global map of forest loss and gain has been created with the help of Google Earth.
The interactive online tool is publicly available and zooms in to a remarkably high level of local detail - a resolution of 30m. It charts the story of the world's tree canopies from 2000 to 2012, based on 650,000 satellite images by Landsat 7. In that time, the Earth lost a combined "forest" the size of Mongolia, enough trees to cover the UK six times.
Brazil's progress in reducing deforestation was more than offset by losses in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay and Angola, according to a study in the journal Science.
"This is the first map of forest change that is globally consistent and locally relevant," said Prof Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, who led the project team which developed the map.
"What would have taken a single computer 15 years to perform was completed in a matter of days using Google Earth Engine computing."
Their study reports a number of key findings on forest change from 2000-2012 - based on the satellite imagery.
The Earth lost 2.3 million square kilometres of tree cover in that period, due to logging, fire, disease or storms.
But the planet also gained 800,000 sq km of new forest, a net loss of 1.5 million sq km in total.
Brazil showed the best improvement of any country, cutting annual forest loss in half between 2003-04 and 2010-11.