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Google Earth SHOCK: ZERO point ZERO ZERO SIX of world forests disappear each year

Not to mention 'Great Reversal' density increase

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The technical team behind Google Earth have partnered with US government boffins to produce dramatic satellite maps showing how the area of the world covered by forests has changed across the years 2000 to 2012.

The red speckles are forests lost from 2000-2012

In the year 2000, some 32,688,000 km2 of the planet was covered by forests. Over the next 12 years, 2.3 million km2 of forest was lost, but 0.8m was actually gained. Overall the loss was 1.5m km2, representing an annual loss of approximately 0.6 per cent [which is the same as 0.006 of the total. No need to write in about the headline - Ed].

One of the success stories of the decade was Brazil, which started off losing 0.04 million km2 (a thousandth of the world forest area) every year. But by 2012, in large part by making use of the same free Landsat data that the Googlers and boffins employed in the study, Brazil's government had managed to cut its deforestation to half that - a rate that would take centuries to seriously impact the world's forest area, and still slowing.

Other governments didn't do so well, with Indonesia, Russia and some central African nations coming in for a stern finger-wagging from the boffins in press releases accompanying the publication of the new research.

The relatively slow modern losses in world forest area are believed by some noted boffins to be offset by ongoing increases in forest density: due to changes in forest management in many nations, their trees are taller and more thickly planted, such that the actual amount of carbon locked up in them is going up. This has been dubbed the "Great Reversal" for the world's forests.

So all may not be doom and gloom, for those who like to hug a tree now and then.

The crafty maps can be viewed in their full glory here, and the paper outlining the results is published here in hefty boffinry mag Science. ®

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