Friday, February 24, 2017

Rural forest canopy disappearing, says study of satellite images of forest maps

study by researchers at the State University of New York at Syracuse "shows the rural forest canopy disappearing," Darryl Fears reports for The Washington Post. The study, which used satellite images of forest maps across the continental U.S. taken in the 1990s, then again from 2000-2012, found that "Forest space disappeared from the U.S. in such big chunks that the average distance from any point in the nation to a forest increased by 14 percent, about a third of a mile."

Researchers Sheng Yang and Giorgos Mountrakis "marked tree canopy that disappeared over a decade in red to highlight the change. In one illustration included in the study, the page appeared to bleed," Fears writes. Mountrakis said, “So if you are in the western U.S. or you are in a rural area or you are in land owned by a public entity, it could be federal, state or local, your distance to the forest is increasing much faster than the other areas. The forests are getting further away from you.”

The study, published in the online journal PLOS One, says the "disappearance isn’t happening in cities, where people often complain about the uprooting of trees for development," Fears writes. "It’s happening in rural America, where trees are falling and hardly anyone hears. That finding turns conventional wisdom about forest loss on its head, Mountrakis said." He told Fears, “The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable, but that’s not what our study showed. Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches.” (SUNY at Syracuse graphic: Forest cover change and forest attrition distance change in level III ecoregions)

No comments: