By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

A digital focus on deforestation

by in Environment.

Source: Globalforestwatch.org

Source: Globalforestwatch.org

Google is no stranger to humanitarian efforts — particularly ones geared towards preserving the environment. The internet giant has been a part of climate projects and species preservation movements before, and has most recently partnered with environmental groups to create a database that tracks global deforestation in real-time. The tool is in the form of a publicly-available website found at globalforestwatch.org, which tracks hectares of tree loss, forest cover change analysis, and focused coverage on problem areas of the world.

Google’s blog announcing the project explained the significance of deforestation on global climate change and other environmental concerns for the planet:

According to data from the University of Maryland and Google, the world lost more than 500 million acres of forest between 2000 and 2012. That’s the equivalent of losing 50 soccer fields’ worth of forests every minute of every day for the past 13 years! By contrast, only 0.8 million km2 have regrown, been planted, or restored during the same period.

And added commentary regarding the most heavily forested part of the world:

The Southern United States is home to the nation’s most heavily forested region, making up 29 percent of the total U.S. forest land. Interestingly, the majority of this region is “production forests.” [The map] shows how forests throughout this region are used as crops — grown and harvested in five-year cycles to produce timber or wood pulp for paper production.

VISUAL CONTEXT: TROPICAL DEFORESTATION

Source: Mongabay

Source: Mongabay

But deforestation is a growing problem from other drivers as well. Research published in the journal Science last month suggests that “narco-deforestation” — or the clearing of forests in order to make way for drug trade — has begun to take a specific toll on Central America as drug traffickers build roads and air fields to channel drugs to the U.S. This problem has become more severe, as the BBC reports, in the last seven years as Mexico cracks down on the flow of narcotics in and out of its borders. Central America has become the byway between drug sources in countries further south like Colombia and the drug users in the U.S. And with the aggressive drug trade comes aggressive deforestation.