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NASA Tool Shows Where Forest Is Being Cut Down

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the cutting-through-your-neck-of-the-woods dept.

Earth 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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70 comments

MOST LIKELY WHERE THE TREES ARE ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40198927)

I and my NASA kindred would seem to agree here !!

Re:MOST LIKELY WHERE THE TREES ARE ?? (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199131)

Despite our best attempts to eliminate trees there are still vast and physically remote areas of the planet that are chock full 'em. In some of these areas illegal logging and clearing occurs on a massive scale, (which for some bizzare reason is often estimated in units of footy fields lost per minute). Surveys such as this provide a valuable tool for answering such questions as; Who's stealing the people's (or plantation owner's) property? Where is poverty, neglect, or overuse causing a detrimental impact to both people and environment? How can we make best use of our aid/environment dollar to try and reverse, or at least slow, the trend in the fastest growing areas?

What if ... (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199781)

What if they destroy virgin tropical forest and replace it with oil palm plantations?

Satellite looking down will still see trees, it's just different kinds of trees, but the virgin forest, with all its original flora and fauna, wiped out forever

Like what happened in Sumatra, Indonesia, where 4 very rare Sumatran Elephants were killed recently because their habitat were destroyed

Re:What if ... (2)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40200359)

That would be easy enough to detect if they were using spectral analysis, different plants having different spectral properties, a fact often used by researchers to distinguish between (for example) old-growth and new-growth forest in overhead shots. That would probably yield a lot of false-positives though as vegetation changes naturally, it sounds like they're starting out with the low-hanging fruit and just looking for significant drops in greenness level. That might well still detect your scenario though, a palm plantation is unlikely to be anywhere near as green as virgin forest, especially in the first few years. You'll have an awful lot of ground visible between trees and through the fronds, where before you'd be seeing solid canopy.

Re:What if ... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40204913)

That might well still detect your scenario though, a palm plantation is unlikely to be anywhere near as green as virgin forest, especially in the first few years. You'll have an awful lot of ground visible between trees and through the fronds, where before you'd be seeing solid canopy.

I am afraid you may have proper information

Oil palm plantations do not plant seedlings

The palm oil industry is a very well established and organized industry, made up of upstream breeders that breed new varieties of palm trees, all the way to the oleo industry vendors who produce specialized oleo chemicals such as glycerine for the cosmetic industry.

Oil palm plantation themselves do not plant seedlings. They buy trees 12 to 18 months old palm trees, sometimes already 10 feet in height, from nurseries, and plant them.

In other words, if you are to look for "awful lot of ground visible between trees" you may not find them

Re:What if ... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40204953)

Compared to the solid green of a dense forest canopy, being able to see any ground at all is a lot. I suppose it's possible the palms would be planted so close together that their fronds overlap considerably, but even then I suspect they would be much less green than a thick canopy, perhaps not the necessary 40% less to trigger an alert though.

Re:What if ... (2)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40206151)

A monoculture of palms would look considerably different to a satellite than a tropical rain forest. I doubt they'd have any difficulty distinguishing between the two.

Re:MOST LIKELY WHERE THE TREES ARE ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40206825)

Oh no, they've cut down most of the forests of Greenland!

Oh, acronyms. (4, Funny)

musicalmicah (1532521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40198965)

I kept reading it as GLaDOS [wikipedia.org] instead of GloF-DAS.

Re:Oh, acronyms. (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199095)

Haha... First thing that came to my mind as well.

Re:Oh, acronyms. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199313)

NASA needs defunded it's become infested with politically motivated faith rather than science.

What does NASA stand for again? (4, Funny)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199009)

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

National Assorted Stuff Agency

Re:What does NASA stand for again? (0, Troll)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199233)

Nazis Ageing in Southern Anonymity

Re:What does NASA stand for again? (2)

utkonos (2104836) | more than 2 years ago | (#40202165)

You're saying that a software tool developed by NASA to interpret data from a scientific instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites orbiting Earth [wikipedia.org] is something strange or outside of their mission? All you really did by making that comment was to put your ignorance on public display.

Replanting? (3, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#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? (3, Insightful)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Replanting? (2, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199505)

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 robust.

I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about the state of the environment. Certainly large scale destruction is possible, and would cause hardship to the earth's human populations. But that doesn't justify the outrageously conservative attitude that any environmental destruction at all must be avoided. You can cut the top off a mountain to get at what's underneath and the environment will recover. You can melt the icecaps and the environment will recover. It's all about measured risk, you need to make sure the rewards outpace the risks.

Re:Replanting? (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199915)

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?

Re:Replanting? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40200329)

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.

Re:Replanting? (2)

ebuck (585470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40200805)

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 sustained loss of wood means massive disruption in building due to lack of traditional materials. New materials can be used, but there are not a lot of great options. If there were, we would already be using them.

If the environment creeps upwards a degree or two, vegatation will still suffer and rebound. During that transition, there will be a vegatation problem. Plants tolerate extreme temperature, but they cannot migrate; so, when a plant dies of heat or drought, it takes time before other plants that can handle the extremes can be estabilshed. The resulting loss of biomass directly translates into less plant respiration, which cools the earth crust by forcing evaoporation.

I live in Redneck Central, was raised here, and I have a Biology degree. I'll go out on a limb here and state that most Rednecks are quick to dismiss any argument that inconveniences them. That doesn't mean they are stupid, but they do have a tendancy to not invest much time in thinking about issues that extend beyond the self. The envrionment is funny, you can dismiss it when there is plenty of land that is not impacted, and that works well for Rednecks; however, when you run out of pristine environment, problems incurr. It is not any particular Billy Bob that is destroying the environment on a grand scale singlhandedly, it is that a few hundred million Billy Bobs are all assuming that their impact is so small, each with a centerist view of the world, that they cannot all understand that if they all act in unison to consume just a little less, it is hundreds of millions of fewer demand on an environment that is already providing them with more biomass and derivatives than nearly any other animal receives.

Re:Replanting? (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40202793)

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 of it may be energy-intensive.

Re:Replanting? (1)

ebuck (585470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40204609)

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?

Re:Replanting? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40215085)

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, simply because they are so expensive to knock down.

You are wrong about the scarcity of concrete, of course. It is really very abundant, it's the expense of building with it that keeps people from using it.

Re:Replanting? (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40289289)

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 embedments, should be able to go for about $400 / yard, or about $20/foot. So a 30'x30' 2-story house would have 12 slabs per side, say 15' tall... about $15000 for its vertical structure. Then the roof needs to be anchored on, but that's doable too. Then, of course, you need the horizontal members, so let's just say you have to spend about $30k for all the prestressed members. You need to rent a cherry picker crane for $2000 to erect it, and you need the skilled labor [another $2000]. Then you can build the rest of the house out of wood, if you like.

I'd say it's doable. Whether it's cheap enough, who knows.

Re:Replanting? (1)

ahbi (796025) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199189)

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? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199283)

Yeah, those damned scientists and their facts really screw up everyone's little economic conservative happy place, don't they? The notion that humans can have an effect on the planet that can be measured really fouls up the "don't worry your pretty little heads, everything's fine" message you get from the right-wing noise machine.

I know--it must be a conspiracy of scientists! Let's start grabbing emails with inside language and jokes, take them out of context, and publish them all over the corporate media. That'll show them.

Sorry if the facts don't correspond with your political view of the world, but the usual approach of attacking the messenger and the message and ignoring what's really going on is kind of getting old.

Re:Replanting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199341)

So, OP asked "Why are scientists ignoring data?"
2ndP said "Data is ignored because of X"
And you said "You ignore data! You ignore data! Scandal Z wasn't really a scandal!"
.
Your response is a non sequitur. It has nothing to do with the OP or 2ndP.
Do you think that "grabbing emails" has anything to do with not collecting data or planting trees (OP's question)? Because if you do you failed to articulate your line of reasoning.
Neither OP or 2ndP had anything remotely to say about Scandal Z. The scandal is utterly irrelevant and immaterial to OP's question. Your response appears to be either (1) a pathological obsession with the scandal on your part or (2) an intellectually dishonest attempt at distraction from OP/2ndP's comment (which I don't know why you'd bother as 2ndP's comment really needn't be taken seriously) .
.
You just had some bizarre knee jerk reaction that makes you look illogical and unbalanced.

Re:Replanting? (3, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199221)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40202239)

The "Regrow the Raninforest" TED talk is misleading. Willie Smitts started with a massive subsidy from a rich woman and didn't keep tabs on the costs of the project, making it impossible to determine whether it is at all economically viable. Furthermore Smitts won't let any independent scientists validate his claims. It's worth noting that he counts monkeys in cages as part of the biodiversity of the project, even when they aren't native to East Kalimantan.

Re:Replanting? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40206839)

Smitts won't let any independent scientists validate his claims.

I hate to see a novice troll go hungry, so here's a little treat for you. - Why are you hiding YOUR evidence? Why won't you let anyone validate YOUR claims?

Re:Replanting? (4, Insightful)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Replanting? (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199523)

What does it matter if the trees being planted will be cut? They will just be replanted again.

Re:Replanting? (4, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199973)

Monocultures are not good --- and not as robust as the mix that was there before. There will be fewer animals living in a forest that is constantly disturbed.

Re:Replanting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40200539)

That's not necessarily true. Look into Victoria Island and it's animal population boom that happened after large amounts of deforestation (and the large decline in the animal population after the trues were allowed to grow back).

Re:Replanting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40201317)

What about natural wild fires that used to burn vast areas until they burned themselves out? How much of the forested areas have been kept in recent years versus what would have been lost? Certainly those efforts have kept carbon locked up.

Re:Replanting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199451)

How about showing where forests are replanted?

That's not of much use. In most cases reforestation is legal, while cutting down trees is legal in some areas and illegal in others. If you know trees are being cut where they shouldn't, you can more easily catch the criminals.

more than 2 billion trees are planted each year

How many of these are only planted to be cut down as soon as viable?

Re:Replanting? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40202745)

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.

Re:Replanting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40205757)

You mean entire forests of shitty fast-growing pine that can be cut again and again so I can go to lowes and buy shitty lumber that has knots every three inches and warps so bad that the boards at the bottom of the stack of 2x4s 10 high don't lay flat under the weight?

Re:Replanting? (1)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40212557)

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

So? What are you actually going to do about it? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199139)

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.

Re:So? What are you actually going to do about it? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199345)

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.

Re:So? What are you actually going to do about it? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:So? What are you actually going to do about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40203489)

Those carbon credit dollars need to go somewhere.

Re:So? What are you actually going to do about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40205061)

These are actually carbon-credit Euros, in the order of many millions p.a. Without this money, the plant would have long closed, and the forest would still be there.

Google Earth (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199231)

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.

re (1)

looneybugsbunny (2651079) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199263)

when are you going to space don't forget about your earth :)

Need a view the past mode (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199299)

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.

Re:Need a view the past mode (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199589)

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.

Re:Need a view the past mode (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40204247)

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 that of maples and chestnuts, which grew around the mouth of the Mississippi River. They spread north at varying rates as well. Some species gained a foothold in an area, then died out as climate warmed too much for their liking.

Typical, politically-biased title (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199333)

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 lifecycle, and what is burned today will be green again tomorrow - these areas should not be counted in any measure of deforestation.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199379)

How exactly would detection of reforestation help to 'detect and respond to deforestation before it expands'? You appear to just be inventing "political bias" for the sake of advancing your own rhetoric.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199897)

How exactly would detection of reforestation help to 'detect and respond to deforestation before it expands'? You appear to just be inventing "political bias" for the sake of advancing your own rhetoric.

I'll confess I found his initial post looking a bit trollish, in the classical sense. I wasnt sure, and still am not completely sure, exactly what he is up to.

But if the tool is to give a complete view surely it should pay the same attention to regrowth as destruction.

Spotting deforestation quickly so that a proper investigation can be done is hard to argue against on its face. But selectively highlighting every instance of deforestation, while studiously ignoring all the regrowth events, does seem like bias. It can be confidently predicted that this will generate a steady stream of reports of negative events, and in the absence of a comparable stream of reports about positive events, human psychology allows us to predict the result will be many people believing that the forests are shrinking even if in fact they are growing on net.

This belief will be quite valuable to certain political interests, of course.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199399)

Damn, you're a raving lunatic.

"Fires are a naturalpart of the forest lifecycle"

No that's grassland, you moron.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199475)

Actually, he's right about fires being a natural part of the forest lifecycle. A ranting looney tune about everything else, but right about that.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199511)

Some forest plants encourage fires. Eucalyptus trees can fuel extreme blazes, but are able to survive them (while their competition dies)

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199545)

This is true for forests as well. Lodgepole pine, for example, typically require high temperatures for their cones to open.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (1)

Zorque (894011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199699)

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.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#40199797)

"...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 research. One of the reasons forest fires get out of control, especially in "virgin forests" is precisely because they have not been allowed to burn periodically, and massive amounts of fuel have accumulated. One valid forest management policy is to initiate controlled burns; this helps keep forests healthy for the long-term, and prevents uncontrolled forest fires.

I object to a "tool" that does not acknowledge either of the above facts. The green extremists have convince most people that forests are disappearing. In fact, in first-world countries they are making a steady comeback. Further, the meme "all forest fires are evil" is simply wrong. Why does pointing this out qualify me as a "raving lunatic"?

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (2)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40200533)

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 if the clearing is being done in out-of-the-way locations (a common theme for illegal activity) an under-funded enforcement agency would have a very difficult time detecting it without a tool like this. If the arm-chair set can also use it to detect local problems and raise the alarm so much the better. Likewise in areas where locals may be harvesting the forest for fuel and lumber - this can raise the alarm among policymakers that they have a non-organized deforestation problem which may merit some form of intervention before it becomes a real problem, after all if the locals are over-harvesting the forest today then in a few years there's going to be a resource shortage that causes problems.

As for forest fires, etc - I'd say that's where human judgement comes in. This is an automated tool to raise red flags where "Hey, vegetation levels have dropped 40% in this location since last year" so it can be investigated. You can then go out to investigate why and say "oh, forest fire, it'll be back in a couple years no big deal" or "hey look, a logging/farming/etc operation, send in the troops".

As the loggers, etc learn of this tool I wouldn't be surprised if at least some got more discrete. 40% clearance will raise an alarm? okay, let's just take 30% and try not to damage the remaining vegetation any more than necessary so greenness will stay up and we can keep operating in the area. At that point you start moving towards the realm of managed wilderness. Granted they'll be cherry-picking the high-value trees and freaking out the local wildlife, but the local ecosystem will be able to recover from that a lot faster than from clear-cutting.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40202583)

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.

Re:Typical, politically-biased title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40205895)

SOME of what is burned today will be green tomorrow. Depending on the intensity of the fire, the forest may take a long time to recover, some parts may never recover, and some will come back with different species in a preponderance, and in the mean time there may be significant erosion. So fires should be included, whether natural or 'burn-offs'.

Really nasa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40199971)

How is this related to space travel?
It really is time nasa was closed down

Re:Really nasa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40200049)

How is this related to space travel? It really is time nasa was closed down

MODIS is a satellite. You know, like in space and all.

Do better (2)

sehryan (412731) | more than 2 years ago | (#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).

Re:Do better (1)

utkonos (2104836) | more than 2 years ago | (#40202265)

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.

There should be a link to see the underlying data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40200433)

This thing would be a lot more useful if it were possible to see the underlying satellite images. I can see two spots in a nearby national park that it claims have been subject to forest disturbances. One is deep in the backwoods and a little hard to attribute to anything other than natural processes or artifact, but the other is within a few kilometers of a road and is very likely that somebody cut it down illegally. It would be nice to see what this thing is seeing rather than sending out a crew to investigate what might just have been a cloud confusing a beta-quality tool.

Re:There should be a link to see the underlying da (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40201865)

This thing would be a lot more useful if it were possible to see the underlying satellite images. I can see two spots in a nearby national park that it claims have been subject to forest disturbances. One is deep in the backwoods and a little hard to attribute to anything other than natural processes or artifact, but the other is within a few kilometers of a road and is very likely that somebody cut it down illegally. It would be nice to see what this thing is seeing rather than sending out a crew to investigate what might just have been a cloud confusing a beta-quality tool.

Yeah. There are a number of local sites I'd like to look at. Especially the ones that are located in the water. I'm assuming the data comes from the forest edge, but it looks odd. If you look at the data for, example, Southeastern Alaska you see giant swaths of dots that occur in a regular pattern. I'm assuming that the center location of the data point and that area surrounding it has evidence of vegetation change from the sensor.

Zoom out and you see that the entire boreal landscape [marietta.edu] is dotted.

So, either 1) forestation changes (not necessarily de forestation, but some sort of change profound enough to get picked up by the system) is happening all over the boreal landscape (an enormous amount of the planet, larger than the Amazonian Rainforest) or 2) the data doesn't mean a whole lot - that there are two many false positives (at least in this presentation) to be particularly useful.

Either that or there are one hell of a lot of Canadian lumberjacks jumping about.

Trees grow back (0)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40201847)

Good thing these hand wringers were not around when America was expanding west, or the railroads and cities west of the Mississippi would never have sprung up! Oh, I'm sure there are some that wish it never would have started...bunch of hippie earth first nuts.

So when a warning goes up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40207585)

Does it say, 'I feel a great disturbance in the forest'?

BUT! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40231339)

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...

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