Canada and Russia beat tropical countries to top global deforestation list

9 April 2015

Not very long ago, tropical countries like Indonesia and Brazil were cast as the main villains of global forest conservation efforts. These countries have been chopping down huge swaths of rainforests to make way for agriculture and palm oil plantations, among other uses.

By and large, they still are — but compared to other countries, there may be sufficient evidence now to pass the villain baton to other national actors. And these other nations aren’t ones that you’d normally suspect.

According to new data from Global Forest Watch, the deforestation story is becoming more complicated, which could be good news for those who have worked with governments of tropical nations to slow their deforestation rates, but bad news for the stability of the planet’s climate overall. Some of the new top players in deforestation are located thousands of miles north of the equator, in Russia, Canada and the U.S., Global Forest Watch found.

The Global Forest Watch effort is a joint project of about 60 groups convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, as well as the University of Maryland and Google. The program uses algorithms that are applied to satellite imagery from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey to estimate changes in tree cover.

The project’s researchers analyzed about 400,000 satellite images for the study, James Anderson of the World Resources Institute said in an interview.

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