Japan publishes annual global forest map – new deforestation monitor coming soon

JAXA Global Forest Map (JAXA)
JAXA Global Forest Map (credit JAXA)

Japan’s national space agency today released its latest global forest map giving a picture of which areas of the world are covered by forest and which are not. At the same time, JAXA said a stronger tool for monitoring tropical forest deforestation is on its way.

JAXA’s global Forest/Non-Forest map derived from its Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2) has a resolution of 25m and is being made available free. The image is expected to be useful to governments and contribute to measures against global warming through the understanding of forest distribution. It is available once a year.

Like ALOS-1, which operated between 2007 and 2011, ALOS-2 carries an L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) but with the addition of a higher resolution (1x3m) spotlight mode while maintaining a wide observation band, plus other improvements. L-band, with a wavelength of about 24cm, can gather information from the land surface by penetrating vegetation such as forests, day or night and whatever the weather.

In addition to its annual global forestation map, JAXA will, starting with Japan’s new fiscal year in April, publish more frequent information on tropical forestation changes, comparing data from the two ALOS missions. An early sample from this “Forest Monitoring System” shows about 8% of Borneo’s tropical forest cover to have been lost between 2010 and 2015.

ALOS-1 images were used by the Brazilian government to monitor illegal deforestation of Amazon rain forest.

Deforestation on Borneo Island observed between 2010 and 2015 based on observations by synthetic aperture radars on ALOS and ALOS-2 (credit JAXA)
Deforestation on Borneo Island observed between 2010 and 2015 based on observations by synthetic aperture radars on ALOS and ALOS-2 (JAXA)