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South Dakota State University’s Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence (GIScCE) released research data gathered through innovative satellite mapping and sampling that provides precise estimates of tropical forest clearing.

The original sampling technique was developed by a group of researchers at the GIScCE led by Matthew Hansen, director and senior research scientist.

Although the approach is novel, Mat Hansen said it builds upon past research history of land cover monitoring and sampling.

The new method uses one type of remote sensing data to objectively stratify land surfaces for sampling and a second variety to analyze the samples for estimating forest cover and change over time, explained Hansen.

Collected information comes from low-and-high spatial resolution satellite datasets, measuring where and how quickly tropical rainforests disappear. The method enables marking the quantity of forest cover and change across the tropics.

“The new approach suggests that more than 27 million hectares of forest area were cleared between 2000 and 2005,” said Hansen.

“Rates are comparable to those of the 1990's with Brazil accounting for nearly half of all rainforest clearing from 2000 to 2005.”

The new sampling technique shows where and how widely spread the forest loss has become.

Researchers say the technique is important because it can repeatedly measure large regions efficiently and supply a consistent measure to estimate global trends in forest loss and gain.

The new method was developed at South Dakota State University in collaboration with researchers at the United States Geological Survey’s National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the University of Maryland.

Hansen said researchers from conservation biologists to carbon modelers will be able to use the data to facilitate their studies.

Forest cover and change are key inputs to a whole host of earth system science applications. Studies at this scale are novel making the results available for use by a variety of researchers.

The GIScCE uses remote sensing, geographic information systems, digital mapping and geostatistics to document and understand the changing earth. The technical expertise and talent needed to perform such studies are readily available here in South Dakota, according to Hansen.

Hansen and his team of researchers predict that this new sampling technique will bring the GIScCE and SDSU a step closer being recognized as a leader in global change and sustainability science.

The Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence is a partnership between SDSU and EROS and provides SDSU faculty and students and EROS scientists the opportunity to collaborate on earth observation research.

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