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News articles on Satellite Imagery

Mongabay.com news articles on Satellite Imagery in blog format. Updated regularly.









First large-scale map of oil palm plantations reveals big environmental toll

(03/07/2011) Expansion of industrial oil palm plantations across Malaysia and Indonesia have laid waste to vast areas of forest and peatlands, exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions and putting biodiversity at risk, reports a new satellite-based analysis that maps mature oil palm estates across Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra.


Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra lose 9% of forest cover in 8 years

(02/25/2011) Kalimantan and Sumatra lost 5.4 million hectares, or 9.2 percent, of their forest cover between 2000/2001 and 2007/2008, reveals a new satellite-based assessment of Indonesian forest cover. The research, led by Mark Broich of South Dakota State University, found that more than 20 percent of forest clearing occurred in areas where conversion was either restricted or prohibited, indicating that during the period, the Indonesian government failed to enforce its forestry laws.


Monitoring deforestation: an interview with Gilberto Camara, head of Brazil's space agency INPE

(02/08/2011) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the world's best deforestation tracking system is found in the country with the most rainforest: Brazil. Following international outcry over immense forest loss in the 1980s, Brazil in the 1990s set in motion a plan to develop a satellite-based system for tracking changes in forest cover. In 2003 Brazil made the system available to the world via its web site, providing transparency on an issue that was until then seen as a badge of shame by some. Since then Brazil has become recognized as the standard-bearer for deforestation tracking and reporting—no other country offers the kind of data Brazil provides. Space engineer Gilberto Camara has overseen much of INPE's earth sensing work and during his watch, INPE has released several new exciting capabilities.


Burning up biodiversity: forest fires increase in Madagascar

(01/10/2011) The number of fires burning in and around forests in the northeastern part of Madagascar increased during the 2010 burning season relative the the year before, according to analysis of NASA data by WildMadagascar.org / Mongabay.com. The rise in burning corresponds to an especially dry year and continued illegal logging of the region's biologically-rich rainforests.


Environmental atlas highlights human impact in Latin America and Caribbean

(12/28/2010) A new atlas produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) combines striking satellite images and rigorous data to present a unique and complex view of environmental changes taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Satellite data reveals fires in region plagued by illegal logging in Madagascar

(12/27/2010) New satellite data reveals active burning in Sava, a region in Madagascar that has been ravaged by illegal logging for rosewood and other valuable rainforest timber.


Map: 15 million sq km of land suitable for forest restoration

(12/22/2010) 1.5 billion hectares (5.8 million square miles) of land are suitable for forest restoration, according a new analysis by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, a partnership between the World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, and IUCN.


Brazil to help African, Asian countries in satellite-based forest monitoring

(12/03/2010) Brazil will provide technical assistance to help tropical countries improve their forest monitoring capabilities, according to an official with the South American country's satellite agency.


2,700 sq km of Brazil's most endangered rainforest destroyed in 8 years

(12/03/2010) 270,000 hectares of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil's most threatened ecosystem, was cleared between 2002 and 2008, reports a new assessment by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA). Less than 8 percent of the Atlantic forest—famed for its biodiversity—remains.


NASA images reveal disappearing mangroves worldwide

(12/01/2010) In August, NASA and the US Geological Survey released the first-ever satellite analysis of the world's mangrove ecosystems. What they found was dire: mangroves covered 12.3% less area than previously estimated. Now, NASA has released images of the world's mangrove ecosystems (see below), which currently cover 137,760 square kilometers. Yet this number keeps shrinking: mangroves are vanishing rapidly due to rising sea levels, deforestation for coastal developments, agriculture and aquaculture.


Pulp plantations destroying Sumatra's rainforests

(11/30/2010) Indonesia's push to become the world's largest supplier of palm oil and a major pulp and paper exporter has taken a heavy toll on the rainforests and peatlands of Sumatra, reveals a new assessment of the island's forest cover by WWF. The assessment, based on analysis of satellite imagery, shows Sumatra has lost nearly half of its natural forest cover since 1985. The island's forests were cleared and converted at a rate of 542,000 hectares, or 2.1 percent, per year. More than 80 percent of forest loss occurred in lowland areas, where the most biodiverse and carbon-dense ecosystems are found.


Google Earth now features 3-D trees

(11/29/2010) With world leaders meeting at climate talks in Cancun to discuss the future of forests, Google has added 3D trees to the latest version of Google Earth. Google has populated several major cities with more than 80 million virtual trees based on an automated process that identifies trees in satellite images. The realistic 3D representations are based on actual tree species found in urban areas. But Google has also extended realistic tree coverage to sites in some of the world's most biologically diverse forests.


Belize lost 10,000 ha of forest per year since 1980

(11/07/2010) Forests in Belize have been cleared at a rate of nearly 10,000 hectares per year for the past 30 years, a recent study shows. In 1980, forests covered 79.5% of the land surface of Belize but as of February 2010 it had decreased to 62.7%. The area covered by forests in the country thus went from about 6500 square miles 30 years ago to around 5300 square miles today, losing an area the size of Rhode Island.


Deforestation falls, but rainforest damage surges in Brazil in Sept

(11/06/2010) Despite the worst drought on record in the region, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during September fell by 20 percent relative to September 2009, reports Imazon, a research institute that provides monthly updates on forest clearing.


Already Critically Endangered, bluefin tuna hit hard by BP oil disaster

(10/19/2010) Using satellite data from the European Space Agency, researchers estimate that over 20% of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico were killed by the BP oil spill. Although that percentage may not seem catastrophic, the losses are on top of an 82% decline in the overall population over the past three decades due to overfishing. The population plunge has pushed the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorize the fish as Critically Endangered, its highest rating before extinction.


Satellites show fragmented rainforests significantly drier than intact forest

(10/13/2010) A new study in Biological Conservation has shown that edge forests and forest patches are more vulnerable to burning because they are drier than intact forests. Using eight years of satellite imagery over East Amazonia, the researchers found that desiccation (extreme dryness) penetrated anywhere from 1 to 3 kilometers into forests depending on the level of fragmentation.


Brazil to launch new deforestation monitoring system that 'sees' through clouds

(10/11/2010) Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.


Free availability of satellite imagery has boosted deforestation monitoring applications, but risk of data gap looms

(09/29/2010) In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of satellite-based monitoring applications and technologies, which is perhaps best exemplified in the eyes of the public by Google Earth, which allows anyone with a decent internet connection to view overhead images of nearly any place on Earth. But these new applications are also helping scientists more effectively monitor environmental change, including the fluctuations in polar sea ice, shifts in oceanic plankton, and deforestation. An important factor in the expanded use of satellite imagery has been the U.S. government's free Landsat Data Distribution Policy, which allows free or inexpensive access to data captured by Landsat satellites, which have been collected data on a regular basis since 1972. But the Landsat program is not presently operating at its full capacity, increasing the risk of a 'data gap' before a new system is in place in 2012.


Peru's rainforest highway triggers surge in deforestation, according to new 3D forest mapping

(09/06/2010) Scientists using a combination of satellite imagery, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys to create three-dimensional high resolution carbon maps of the Amazon rainforest have documented a surge in emissions from deforestation and selective logging following the paving of the Trans-Oceanic Highway in Peru. The study, published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that selective logging and other forms of forest degradation in Peru account for nearly a third of emissions compared to deforestation alone.


NASA: surge in Amazon fires

(08/31/2010) The number of fire hotspots has surged in the Bolivian and Brazilian parts of the Amazon, reveals data and imagery from NASA.


Amazon deforestation falls significantly in 2010, according to preliminary data

(08/31/2010) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down significantly since last year, according to preliminary estimates released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO that tracks forest loss and degradation across the Amazon. Analysis of NASA MODIS data by Imazon found some 1,488 square kilometers of forest were cleared during the 12 months ended July 31, 2010, down 16 percent from the same period last year, when 1,766 square kilometers were deforested. Meanwhile analysis by INPE shows an even steeper drop from 4,375 square kilometers in August 2008 through July 2009 to 2,296 square kilometers in the current period, a decline of 48 percent. The discrepancy between INPE's and Imazon's estimates results from differences in how deforestation is tracked.


80% of rainforests could adversely impacted by logging, deforestation, climate change by 2100

(08/05/2010) The world's tropical forests may suffer large-scale degradation and deforestation by the end of the century if current logging and climate change trends persist, finds a new analysis published in Conservation Letters.


New NASA image reveals the oceans' dead zones

(07/22/2010) A new image by NASA reveals the extent of the world's marine dead zones, which a study in 2008 found were doubling every decade. At that time 415 dead zones had been identified worldwide. Dead zones are regions of the ocean where dissolved oxygen has fallen to such low levels that most marine species can no longer survive. Such conditions are often seasonal.


Arctic ice hits lowest record for June

(07/14/2010) In June the average sea ice extent in the Arctic was the lowest on record for that month, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Measured by satellites, the seasonal movements of Arctic ice have been tracked since 1979 with a dramatic decline seen over the last 30 years. This decline is linked by climatologists to climate change.


The changing nature of illegal logging - and illegal logging investigations - in Brazil's Amazon

(07/08/2010) Operation Jurupari followed on several previous Brazilian Federal Police investigations into SEMA, including: Operation Curupira I (June 2005); Curupira II (August 2005); Mapinguari (2007), Arc of Fire (2008), Termes (April 2008); and Caipora (2008). It was led by Franco Perazzoni, Brazilian Federal Police "Delegado" (or chief), who, since 2006, has headed the environmental crimes unit in Mato Grosso and been responsible for about 300 investigations on environmental crimes, of which about 75% were on illegal deforestation in federal areas. The nature of the illegal deforestation has changed over the years.


Amazon soy moratorium extended

(07/08/2010) Brazilian soy farmers have extended their moratorium on Amazon deforestation for another year, reports Greenpeace.


Forest loss in India likely worse than conventionally believed

(07/06/2010) Researchers have questioned 2009 findings by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) that found that India's forests were, unlike many tropical Asian nations', on the rebound. According to the FSI, Indian forests had grown by almost five percent from the 1990s. Yet, were these finding too good to be true?


NASA satellite image reveals record low snow for the United States

(06/02/2010) According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, snow cover retreated to its lowest extent ever recorded in North America by the end of this April. Snow cover was 2.2 million square kilometers below average. With records of snow extent beginning in 1967, this is the lowest in 43 years and the largest negative anomaly in the past 521 months.


NASA image reveals new oil trail hundreds of kilometers long in the Gulf

(05/19/2010) A new NASA image of the Gulf oil spill shows a trail of oil extending hundreds of kilometers south and then southeast from the spill. At points this new oil trail is at least twenty kilometers wide. Media groups are saying the new arm may be additional proof that oil has been caught up in the Loop Current, which would carry the pollution to Florida coastlines and possibly even the East coast.


NASA, Google Earth catch North Korea logging protected area

(05/18/2010) Employing satellite data from NASA and Google Earth, Guofan Shao, a professor of geo-eco-informatics at Purdue University, has established that North Korea is logging Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve. Since North Korea is off-limits to most researchers, Shao has turned to open-access satellite data to monitor deforestation on the UN designated Man and Biosphere region.


NASA satellite image reveals massive oil spill

(04/26/2010) A newly released NASA satellite image reveals oil leaking from the BP oil rig that sank after it exploded April 20, 2010. The explosion killed 11 workers.


'Very dramatic' changes in Greenland: ice loss spreads north

(03/28/2010) Over the past ten years scientists have measured increasing ice loss along southern Greenland. Now a new study in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the ice loss has spread north with likely consequences for global sea level rise.


Eating Appalachia: NASA satellite images reveal mountain cannibalism for coal

(03/02/2010) New images released by NASA reveal the conversion of mountains and forests in southern West Virginia to a giant surface mine.


Google Earth boosts deforestation monitoring capabilities

(02/07/2010) Google has taken a step towards ramping up the deforestation monitoring capabilities the Google Earth Engine by contracting Massachusetts-based Clark Labs to develop an online version of its Land Change Modeler application.


NASA: Arctic melt season lengthening

(02/03/2010) Newly released images from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the Arctic's melt season has lengthened significantly over the past few decades.


Satellite photo of the world's tallest building and "The World" islands in Dubai

(02/03/2010) NASA has released an updated satellite photo showing Dubai's artificial islands and its newly completed Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building which stands more than 800 meters (2600 feet tall).


Satellites being used to track illegal logging, rosewood trafficking in Madagascar

(01/28/2010) Analysts in Europe and the United States are using high resolution satellite imagery to identify and track shipments of timber illegally logged from rainforest parks in Madagascar. The images could be used to help prosecute traders involved in trafficking and put pressure on companies using rosewood from Madagascar.


Haiti satellite images reveal destruction from earthquake

(01/14/2010) Google updated its satellite imagery of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday in hopes it would to help in the rescue, recovery and relief efforts.


Could space technology save our planet?

(01/06/2010) A new book, Paradise Regained: the Regreening of Earth argues that the solutions to the world’s current environmental crises—including climate change—could be lying far beyond our planet.


Biggest private funder of Amazon conservation teams with Google and scientists to develop earth monitoring platform

(12/18/2009) The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the largest private funder of Amazon rainforest conservation, is playing an unheralded but integral role in the development of the Earth Engine platform, a system that combines the computing power of Google with advanced monitoring and analysis technologies developed by leading environmental scientists. The platform, which was officially unveiled at climate talks in in Copenhagen, promises to enable near real-time monitoring of the world's forests and carbon at high resolution at selected sites before COP-16 in Mexico.


Google's Earth Engine to help tropical countries monitor forests

(12/16/2009) A powerful forest monitoring application unveiled last week by Google will be made freely available to developing countries as a means to build the capacity to quality for compensation under REDD, a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism that would pay tropical countries for protecting forests, according to a senior Google engineer presenting at a side event at COP15 in Copenhagen.


Global forest map moves forward

(12/11/2009) A plan to create a pan-tropical map of forest cover and carbon stocks is moving ahead with data now available on Google Earth, reports the Woods Hole Research Center.


Google Earth to monitor deforestation

(12/10/2009) It what could be a critical development in helping tropical countries monitor deforestation, Google has unveiled a partnership with scientists using advanced remote sensing technology to rapidly analyze and map forest cover in extremely high resolution. The effort could help countries detect deforestation shortly after it occurs making it easier to prevent further forest clearing.


Brazil allocates first funds under plan to save the Amazon

(12/10/2009) Brazil's development bank BNDES has announced the first five recipients of grants under the South American country's ambitious Amazon Fund, which aims to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade.


Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land

(12/09/2009) A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.


Ethnographic maps built using cutting-edge technology may help Amazon tribes win forest carbon payments

(11/29/2009) A new handbook lays out the methodology for cultural mapping, providing indigenous groups with a powerful tool for defending their land and culture, while enabling them to benefit from some 21st century advancements. Cultural mapping may also facilitate indigenous efforts to win recognition and compensation under a proposed scheme to mitigate climate change through forest conservation. The scheme—known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation—will be a central topic of discussion at next month's climate talks in Copenhagen, but concerns remain that it could fail to deliver benefits to forest dwellers.


Google – the new eye in the sky for protecting forests?

(11/22/2009) Google looks set to play a part in a called-for "new environmental world order" by satellite-monitoring the rates of deforestation of tropical rainforests and pinpointing illegal logging and land misuse, Google’s Northern and Central Europe head Philipp Schindler has revealed. Schindler made the announcement in London on November 19 at a meeting at St James's Palace hosted by the Prince's Rainforests Project about a new climate change reduction mechanism, REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). An inter-governmental report produced this month by an Informal Working Group (IWG) for Interim Funding of REDD has outlined an initiative to save the CO2 equivalent of the annual emissions of the US over five years by rewarding developing countries for reducing deforestation, with payments on a performance basis.


Google partners with Amazon tribe

(10/29/2009) The story of an indigenous Amazon tribe that has embraced technology in its fight to protect its homeland and culture is now highlighted as a layer in Google Earth.


Satellite lasers show melting of Greenland, Antarctic worse than expected

(09/23/2009) Researchers examining 43 million satellite measurements of Antarctica's thinning ice sheets and 7 million of Greenland's, show that the ice is melting faster than expected. Published in Nature the research is the most comprehensive picture to date of the melting glaciers, allowing scientists to better predict how sea levels may rise.


Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon

(09/08/2009) While you're browsing the mall for running shoes, the Amazon rainforest is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Perhaps it shouldn't be. The globalization of commodity supply chains has created links between consumer products and distant ecosystems like the Amazon. Shoes sold in downtown Manhattan may have been assembled in Vietnam using leather supplied from a Brazilian processor that subcontracted to a rancher in the Amazon. But while demand for these products is currently driving environmental degradation, this connection may also hold the key to slowing the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest.



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