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Painting the Global Picture of Tree Cover Change

Tree Cover Loss in the Humid Tropics

This is the first in a series of WRI posters on tree cover change across the globe focuses on tropical hot spots in Brazil, Cambodia, Central Africa, and Indonesia.

Executive Summary

The loss of tree cover over extensive areas of the humid tropics is a global phenomenon with important implications for the health and prosperity of forest ecosystems, as well as the local people and economies that depend on their resources.

Accurate, consistent and timely data on the location and extent of major changes in forest ecosystems is essential to governments and civil society groups that are working to understand and address the impacts of forest loss. Until recently, global forest cover assessments typically had to rely on disparate data sets of uncertain quality and accuracy. However, improved mapping techniques and satellite observations can now, for the first time, produce reliable, cost-effective measurements of forest cover change. This new capability represents a turning point in environmental monitoring and the use of satellite information to improve management of the world's forests.

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p>Since 2000, remotely sensed data have been available free of cost from the MODIS (MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer) sensor, operated by NASA. MODIS land data are detailed enough (250 and 500 meters) to detect major land cover conversion events. Near-daily data updates for the entire surface of the Earth allow for timely detection and documentation of change.

Case Studies

The case studies in this poster depict the results of a pan-tropical assessment of tree cover change using MODIS data from 2000 to 2006. Each case study includes a 500m resolution inset map detailing forest change at selected locations, with hotspots shown in red. Higher-resolution Landsat images provide further examples of MODIS' power to pinpoint local hotspots, and illustrate the importance of monitoring as a tool to improve forest management.

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