Disappearing Forests and Wetlands in Belize revealed by NASA satellite

In recent years experts can keep tabs on all the things happening on the planet through space. And this technology is what the space industry, via satellites, is helping the globe in achieving. We can look out for natural disasters, climatic changes, and other happenings in space with these facts.

Recently utilizing NASA satellite images and machine learning, the University of Texas research team at Austin unmasked changes in the Northwestern Belize landscape. These changes date back to the last four decades, where there is a significant loss of wetlands and forests. However, there is also an indication of successful regrowth of forest in the conservation zones whose main mission is to protect ancient Maya’s surviving structures.

This research is vital and offers a case study regarding the rapidly developing and tropical areas globally, especially in regions struggling to maintain a forest and wetland conservation balance, keeping in mind food security and agricultural needs. A professor at the Geography Department, Timothy Beach, explained that the broad-scale worldly studies indicate tropical deforestation and destruction of wetlands is happening fast. And these details are affecting climate changes in different ways, including an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the main contributor to water pollution, and Belize is a popular long-term environmental research Centre when solving this global dilemma.

The research team has a study in Remote Sensing where it states that the study was under Colin Doyle’s leadership, a UT Austin Graduate. During the study, the team used NASA satellite images to show the land-cover and the years’ changes. The timeline was chosen regarding the agricultural and conservation initiatives’ rapid changes.

The Landsat program has been running since 1972, recording earth images, and is currently working under the eighth satellite. To make such conclusions, the research team used images from many satellites in the program. Later they used an algorithm to understand eight different land types, including wetlands and forests. From the images, it is clear that between 1984 and 1987, deforestation was reduced to small patches. With protected areas dating back to the 1990s, the second examination between 1999 and 2001 showed forest regrown but wetlands losses.

Its third examination was between 2014 and 2016, and following the industrial agriculture shift, losses in both wetlands and forests are evident. One of the major influencing factors is population since an increase in population means more land for agriculture for food security. And this detail will have a huge impact on the land. Images also show the necessity of conservation efforts for forest maintenance. The report indicates that the conversion of forest to agricultural land increases greenhouse gas emissions in the tropics.

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