A mountain in Romania where illegally harvested trees has resulted in harmful deforestation. (Photo: DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Many of the world's forests are in dire need of attention — though if you've been following environmental trends at all over the last decade, well, this isn't exactly news.
For example, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, around 17 per cent of the forests in the Amazon have been lost in the last 50 years. More critically, around 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are the result of deforestation.
Today, a new website launched that aims to cast some light on the situation. Global Forest Watch is an initiative maintained by the World Resources Institute, an independent research organization based in Washington, DC. Along with a group of partners that includes NGOs, universities and Google (for the map), Global Forest Watch hopes to improve information about the world's forests to help people make better decisions about them.
It does so in the form of an interactive map, which plots instances of deforestation and forest rejuvenation as it happens, using satellite imagery and up-to-the-minute data from its research partners. Users can track the progress of forests over time, starting in 2000.
Then the site alerts media, academics, politicians and anyone else interested in the plight of the world's forests, including when trees are being harvested or planted, as it's happening.
"What is new here is that we're taking an enormous amount of complex and very confusing information and making it accessible to everyone, everywhere. You don't need a PhD in astrophysics to understand Global Forest Watch", Nigel Sizer, director of WRI's Global Forest Initiative, said at the unveiling this morning in Washington.
For more details on how it works, you can watch their instructive (and amusingly animated) video here: