Landsat’s Role in Managing Forests
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 NASA-funded study has discovered an important indicator of rain forest vulnerability to clear-cutting in Brazil. This five-year study is the first to quantify the relationship between selective logging, where