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Mapping deforestation, endangered species, and more with Google Earth

Claudia Gabarain's picture

Checking out, I came across a very cool application of Google Earth to see the levels of deforestation across the world, including short data sheets per country. So you can quickly see that Malaysia has lost over 6% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2005 (according to different data sources), while China has increased its own by 25% over the same period of time.

The nicer discovery, though, were the other maps the same developer, David Tryse, has been creating on environmental issues (check them all out in his website): the top 100 most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) mammal and amphibian species, 34 biodiversity hotspots according to Conservation International, and protected area networks --or national parks-- worldwide, among others.

Note that the sources of data are rather varied. To view and explore the maps, you need to download Google Earth and install it in your computer, save the KML file/s provided for each map (KML is a file format used to display geographic data), and open them from Google Earth. At the bottom of that list of maps, you will find a link to download all files at once if you want, and you can also subscribe to updates for new maps that David may come up with.


The potential of programs such as Google Earth are phenomenal and development agencies should take much more interest in them - for targeting and harmonising aid and for fundraising. They could be a key lever for aid transparency, as discussed on my blog:

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
This is quite useful. This blog is not only a solid, good one, but unlike many others keeps improving. Well done.

Submitted by mikemag on
Thanks for the tips, technology like this is amazing, well the amazing thing is that you can actually access to it so easy. Just thought back 10 years ago or even 20, what information could you get fairly easy, fact books from your local library? Just one thing, where did the developer get his information from, is it trustworthy? Anyway thanks for the tips.

I know, at this point my last visit to a library for research is such a distant memory... Regarding the sources of the data used in the maps by David Tryse, they vary quite a bit: from the Zoological Society of London, to the UN, to something called Center for Tankship Excellence. Like with any other data, I figure it is worth researching a bit the background of those sources that are less familiar. In the case of the deforestation maps, the sources are the World Resources Institute, Greenpeace, and the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization. It's all listed next to each map in his page:

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