NASA: Deforestation jumps in Malaysia

June 10, 2013

Deforestation jumped during the first three months of 2013 in Malaysia, Nepal and Mexico, according to a forest tracking tool developed by a team of NASA researchers.

NASA's Quarterly Indicator of Cover Change (QUICC), a MODIS satellite-based product that underpins Mongabay.com's Global Forest Disturbance Alert System (GloF-DAS), picked up strong deforestation signals in five countries during the first quarter of 2013: Malaysia (115 percent increase in deforestation), Nepal (114 percent), Mexico (92 percent), Argentina (72 percent), and Madagascar (51 percent).

According to Christopher Potter, a Senior Research Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center who co-led development of the tool, hotspots in each country include:
  • Argentina: Large areas of woodland disturbance in La Pampa and Mendoza Provinces and south of the city of San Luis
  • Madagascar: New areas of forest disturbance in the northeast coastal areas near Antananahaolo
  • Malaysia: New areas of forest disturbance on the western coastal areas of Perak state
  • Mexico: Large areas of forest disturbance in the states of San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon along the northeast coastal zone
  • Nepal: Expanded woodland disturbance in the northern Karnali zone near Saldang
However GloF-DAS also showed large drops in deforestation compared to a year earlier in several key tropical countries, including DRC-Congo (94 percent drop), Thailand (84 percent), Myanmar (81 percent), Vietnam (72 percent), Lao PDR (57 percent), Gabon (52 percent), Nigeria (48 percent), Brazil (42 percent), Colombia (36 percent), and India (37 percent).

Indonesia, the country with the second-highest rate of forest loss among tropical countries, saw its forest disturbance rise 3 percent during the period.

GloF-DAS relies on NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor to detect changes in forest greenness cover relative to the year-earlier period. It registers change in all forest and woodland areas that have lost at least 40 percent of their green vegetation cover over the past year. Seasonal variation is generally mitigated through the product's quarterly baseline, although changes in some parts of the world, like boreal regions, can be affected by snow and ice distribution.

The tool can help highlight areas where deforestation and forest degradation is occurring on a quarterly basis, potentially providing insight to authorities, policymakers, civil society, local communities, and academics.

GloF-DAS was developed in a partnership between NASA Ames Research Center, Cal State Monterey Bay, and Mongabay.com.

Clearing for palm oil production in Malaysia in 2012

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NASA: Deforestation jumps in Malaysia.