Utah Tree Cover and Tree Cover Loss

Eric Samson | 3.19.2021

As our world continues to develop and our population climbs, it is becoming increasingly important to accurately quantify forest growth and loss. Forests are essential to atmospheric and environmental cycles. They can also act as natural carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 trapped within our atmosphere through photosynthesis. But they do not always act as carbon sinks; they can also become a source of carbon when trees are burned off in fires. Increasing green space has recently been shown to alter air flow near the surface, which can offset some warming in the surrounding area. For those reasons and many others, increasing the earth's green space and limiting forest destruction are imperative goals for our future.

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The University of Maryland releases their forest cover, forest loss, and forest growth data online, and through their partnership with Google Earth Engine. More information on the methodology on the creation of the data can be found in the Hansen et al. study. All of the datasets available are 30-meter resolution global rasters. There's a Tree Cover dataset for the year 2000 (which I used below) and Tree Cover Loss and Tree Cover Gain datasets from 2001-2019. The study showed that globally, from 2000 to 2012, "2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost...and 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained."

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