As technology grows, so do our tools for conservation. Google Earth, in partnership with NASA and Dr. Matthew Hansen, professor of  geographical sciences at the University of Maryland, has produced an interactive map of the globe to show the condition of the planet’s forest canopy from 2000 to 2012. This new map is one of the most detailed global maps of forest cover ever created and will have tremendous impacts on the future forest monitoring.

The new map was only made possible by the marriage of the easy-to-use Google Earth interface and the access to incredibly high resolution satellite pictures. Satellite can now take a picture of a 33 yard area all the way from space, which makes it ideal for studying small and large changes in forest canopy over any area, but especially the most remote sections of the world. The map shows the changes in the forest cover by color. Green is tree cover, red is lost, pink is loss, and blue is gain. To look at the map and even check out your hometown, just click here!

The study discovered that more than 888 thousand square miles of forest was lost worldwide during the 12 year study. Some of the forest was lost due to deforestation, other areas due to natural phenomenons like storms, drought, and even earthquakes. Hansen was also startled by the rate of deforestation in tropical countries like Paraguay, Bolivia, Cambodia, and Indonesia. However, there was some positive signs, like the 309 thousand square miles of new forest growth in the same time period. This growth is not enough to offset the forest lost but shows efforts may be working in other areas.

This map has great potential to increase the accuracy and efficiency of forest monitoring worldwide. With a resolution as high as it is, people, organizations, and governments are able to take a detailed and local look at concerned areas.This will aid in policy making, activism, catching illegal activity, and hopefully education. It will also allow larger conservation efforts to connect and hopefully regrow some of the earth’s forest. This specific map could even be used to match up reforestation and anti-deforestation campaigns over the last decade to see if they had any impact at all.

However, what the map does the best is create a visual of global forest management, perhaps illustrating more effectively the larger impacts we are having on the our planet.

Looking to help to prevent deforestation? Check out this article.