Landsat’s Critical Role Forest Management
People and economies around the world rely on forests for timber, carbon storage, flood control, biological diversity, recreation, and more. Forest managers face many challenges. In the last few years, forest fires have become more intense and more frequent; North American forests have experienced widespread infestations by pests such as the pine bark beetle; and tropical deforestation continues. Our changing climate adds complexity to government and commercial decisions about how to manage, protect, and sustain our forest resources. Landsat satellites provide key data for forest monitoring and management across the globe. Landsat gives us consistent views of the health, composition, and extent of forest ecosystems as they change over time. Curtis Woodcock, Professor, Boston University and specialist in remote sensing, has said, “I would argue that the Landsat data archive may be the most valuable environmental data record we have.” Designed, built, and launched by NASA, Landsat satellites have recorded global forest conditions every year since the 1970’s, and they have observed all U.S. forests once a season throughout those years. The U.S. Geological Survey provides this valuable data to the public at no cost. Landsat observations will continue into the future with Landsat 8.
A new method, fusing data from many sources, has been developed for quantifying forests’ role as both carbon sink and carbon source.
Landsat-based Global Forest Watch alerts seem to be helping slow down forest loss in Africa.
Landsat shows some of the ways in which COVID-19 is changing the environment.
A new study reports a net increase of 5.38 petagrams of forest biomass between 1984 and 2016; carbon-wise, that is equivalent to a train of loaded coal cars long enough to wrap itself around Earth nearly 34 times.
Landsat and ICESat-2 satellite data have made it possible for scientists to develop maps showing the “quality” of tropical forests.