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The World Has Lost an Unbelievable Amount of Forest Since 1999

New high-resolution maps show that we've gobbled up green space more than twice the size of Texas.
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UMD/Google/et al.

It can be difficult to picture the rapid and widespread destruction of the world's forests, though many of us live in cities plucked clean of woodland. But scientists have done just that with these depressingly detailed global-deforestation maps, which contain high-resolution images showing how humanity is sawing down trees like a voracious colony of giant leaf-cutter ants.

"Global Forest Change" is a Google Earth-powered map based on more than half a million Landsat images taken from 1999 to 2012, and assembled by researchers at the University of Maryland, Google, the U.S. Geological Survey and elsewhere. Using bright red coloring to represent tree loss, it shows that the pace of deforestation has kept far ahead of regrowth. Since 2000, the planet has lost 2.3 million square kilometers. It's grown only 800,000 square kilometers back, making a net deficit of 1.5 million square kilometers (roughly 580,000 square miles), according to a study published yesterday in Science.