Deforestation is a big problem, given that it gets into everything in the environment, from climate change to biodiversity. Scientists have long tried to gauge the severity of it, which isn’t an easy task. One of the processes is to measure the lost forest cover, but it doesn’t tell the effect it can have on a given area.
Maps to the rescue
Researchers have developed a new technique to slice deforestation. They have used satellite maps trace forest attrition distance from any point in the continental United States to the nearest forest. What they have found that between 1992 and 2001, the attrition distance increased by one-third of a mile. Also from the overhead data, you can see whether tree losses are relatively mild or serious.
According to Aaron Ellison from Harvard Forest, this new metric will only be useful to tackle deforestation. There are already methods like fragmentation that can provide a nuanced image of deforestation.
“I don’t think we need another metric,” said Ellison. “No metric, no matter how opaque or how clear, has made a difference in that discussion during my lifetime.”
However, this new metric can offer some guidance on which areas may need help, identifying most damaging precedent of deforestation. It could be helpful or those areas, which were overlooked before.