August 12, 2019
A recent news report in the environmental awareness realm comes with a refreshing and surprising fact, which cites NASA's digitized satellite maps showing an increased green cover distribution across urban areas on Earth's surface when compared to imagery from 20 years ago.
The data source from NASA displays a counter intuitive digitized map showing foilage of green vegetation and new signs of land greening across the populated continent of Asia. These new findings were covered in a nature publication which brings to light the enormous afforestation efforts that were put into by the nations of China and India in past 20 years. It discusses the satellite data from NASA, the greening patterns observed and the contributing factors that a played a role in this huge shift.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Vegetation loss has been connected directly to the increase in air pollution index, poor environmental quality, lower quality of life and health, disasters, land degradation, climate change and its subsequent effects. After going through the peak in land development under the economic growth spurt of 90s, it didn't take long for the cities and their governance structures to quickly realize the impending danger and implement counter measures to tackle loss of vegetation. But in the research done by NASA,the researchers point out that the gain in greenness seen around the world and dominated by India and China does not offset the damage from loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems remain.
So how does this help the forest industry ? Well even though the larger picture looks greener and satellite imagery proves successful in providing an overview of the tree cover and extensive timeline data, there is catch, when it comes to seeing the pattern and the type of vegetation cover. According to a parallel study done by World Economic Forum in 2018, Industrial timber plantations, mature oil palm estates and other specifically planted forests add to global tree cover. On paper these areas compensate for the primary forest that has been cut down; 100-hectare loss of primary forest is perfectly offset by a 100-hectare gain on a man-made plantation, for example.
Source : NASA Earth Observatory
Relaying the accurate captured data to the various independent forest management and stewardship organizations for the ground level accuracy is crucial to see how the timber supply chain industry operates with new changes and regulations.
But it is important to note the distinction between forest cover growth patterns, different growth trend compared to agriculture cover, tree cover or protected reserve. According to the NASA findings "How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, both on a global scale and the local human level. For example, increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation. If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change."
The image displays an example of the differing trends in what constitutes the green cover in different regions.
Source: Science mag
In terms of the quantitative stats:
"China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area. The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%), but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%)." Source-nature.com .
In conclusion from what we gather as data, we can say that humans and our geological landscapes are incredibly resilient, even if the mitigation steps take place slowly over the years, they are bound to have results.