Satellite data heat maps show which tropical forests are struggling, need help

satellite data forest prediction heat maps
Satellites are great for communication, weather forecasting, and a number of other activities. Now there’s one application we haven’t previously come across — building up heat maps of the world’s tropical forests. When combined with some neat statistical tools, they can predict regions that might be in trouble.

That’s the goal of a research project at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. It was recently described in a paper for the journal Nature Climate Change, entitled “Remotely sensed resilience of tropical forests.”

“We’ve got large amounts of satellites monitoring these forests, and we discovered that we were able to use time series information from them to look at the dynamics and resilience of the forest,” lead author Professor Jan Verbesselt told Digital Trends. “We found out that they’re slowing down due to pressures like droughts. That is a new indicator which can be derived from this data, and used for predicting where fragile forest are — so people can do something about it.”

Wageningen University and Research Centre
Wageningen University and Research Centre

The work involved analyzing tree cover to see how it changed in response to climatic changes. In particular, alterations in greenness, and the speed at which these changes take place, is an indicator of a forest’s ability to recover from stress. The statistical model based on the satellite images also proved that there is a “tipping point” at which forests collapse after a particularly dry period.

“We haven’t drawn immediate conclusions about why these droughts are increasing,” Verbesselt said. “We live in a changing world. What we’re doing is studying those changes and how they impact our tropical forests.”

Looking forward, Verbesselt told us that he hopes the model his team has developed can be used to help people intervene to save forests before they reach the point of no return. “There is more satellite data available than ever,” he said. “For instance, the European Space Agency recently launched three new satellites, called Sentinel 1, 2, and 3. This massive amount of high-quality data is open access and available for free. The models we developed can be used on that satellite data to find out in detail what is happening in our ecosystem.”

And it’s not just forests either.

“There are various dynamic systems that can be monitored from space, like lakes, savanna, grasses,” he concluded. “This is a predictive tool people from all over the world could use [to help monitor a variety of natural systems].”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.