Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Border of Trees

This Google Earth Engine satellite view from 1984 shows the border between Belize and Guatemala. The actual border between the two countries is impossible to see in this satellite image because it is obscured by the rain-forest. However if we fast-forward to 2018 it is very easy to see the border - because Guatemala has chopped down all of its trees.

You can use Google Earth Engine to explore this deforestation in Guatemala for yourself. You can even animate the timeline to view the disappearance of the rain-forest in the country over the last thirty odd years. Guatemala, according to Global Forest Watch, has lost nearly 17% of its forests since the start of this century.

The reason why Belize still has such a large rain-forest and extensive biodiversity is that the government has protected the environment. According to the World Database on Protected Areas 37% of the country has some kind of official protection. In Guatemala, on the other hand, the government has allowed oil companies to decimate the Laguna del Tigre National Park. Elsewhere the government has allowed forests to be stripped for sugar cane, palm oil and other agriculture. There has also been extensive deforestation for cattle farming.

Here is another view of the border between Guatemala and Belize from Global Forest Watch. The green color is used to show tree cover on the map. The pinky-red color shows where there has been tree-cover loss since 2010. Can you guess where the border is?

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