The World Lost an Oklahoma-Sized Area of Forest in 2013, Satellite Data Show

The regions in North America with more than 30 percent forest loss. Image: MOTHERBOARD
Oklahoma spans an area in the American South that stretches across almost 70,000 square miles. That’s almost exactly the same area of global forest cover that was lost in a single year, back in 2013. And it’s perhaps a useful way to visualize the ongoing loss of worldwide forest habitats—recall that in the first decade of the 21st century, ​8 percent of the world’s tree cover vanished.

By Brian Merchant|MOTHERBOARD

High resolution maps from Global Forest Watch, tapping new data from a partnership between the University of Maryland and Google, show that 18 million hectares (69,500 square miles) of tree cover were lost from wildfires, deforestation, and development the year before last. The maps were created by synthesizing 400,000 satellite images collected by NASA’s Landsat mission.

The big surprise is the huge amount of forest loss in Canada and Russia. While Indonesia, long a global leader in deforestation, finally slowed its rate of destruction, northern boreal forests in Russia and Canada were literally burning up. Between 2011 and 2013, Russia and Canada jointly accounted for 34 percent of worldwide forest loss, according to the data.

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