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Matthew Hansen

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There's no single culprit responsible for deforestation: around the world, forest cover is lost because of fires, disease, logging, clear-cutting, and myriad other factors. And the environmental consequences threaten to be severe, especially given that deforestation causes an estimated 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

And before experts can effectively mitigate the problem, they need to know where it's happening — and to what extent. Now, a collaborative effort led by the University of Maryland (and including both Google and NASA) has created the first-ever high-resolution map that tracks forest gains and losses over time. Described this week in the journal Science, the map's creation depended on more than a decade of satellite imagery provided by Landsat — a satellite program operated by the US Geological Survey to capture and store images of Earth — combined with the processing prowess of Google Earth Engine.

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