Earth Matters

Changing Eastern European Forests (Seen From the Ground)

July 17th, 2015 by Adam Voiland


Our July 16 Image of the Day—Changing Forest Cover Since the Soviet Era—features a Landsat-derived map showing how forests have changed in Eastern Europe since 1985. After exploring the three areas we highlighted, I highly recommend browsing the map at full resolution using either Google Earth or GigaPan. The amount of detail you will find is extraordinary. There are dozens of other interesting forest loss and gain hot spots that we could have highlighted. In fact, we may publish additional stories using these data, so please let us know if you are aware of local stories of forest change in eastern Europe that deserve more attention.

While the satellite maps offer invaluable “big picture” perspective, ground photographs really bring the changes to life. Peter Potapov, the University of Maryland scientist who led the mapping effort, passed along a few photographs taken during his field research in Russia. It is one thing to know that a brown pixel in the maps indicate forest loss and the a green pixel indicates gain. It becomes real when you can actually see charred trunks after a forest fire or stands of saplings springing up in abandoned Soviet farm fields.

Logging site in the Vladimir region of Russia. Photo Credit: Peter Potapov.

Spruce trees killed by bark beetle in the Vladimir region of Russia. Photo Credit: Peter Potapov.

Charred trunks caused by a forest fire in the Vladimer region of Russia. Photo credit: Peter Potapov

Pine forests in an abandoned pasture in the Vladimir region of Russia. The pine trees are about ten years old. Photo Credit: Peter Potapov.

Birch forest growing on abandoned farmland in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. Photo Credit: Peter Potopov

Early stages of forest recovery in abandoned farmland in the Kirov region of Russia. Photo Credit: Peter Potapov

One Response to “Changing Eastern European Forests (Seen From the Ground)”

  1. Millor Sabara says:

    Forest harvest and freshwater ecosystems are closely related. Many studies suggest this kind of forestry management have a link in aquatic ecosystem losses of biotic health and ecological integrity.
    The images suggest Pine forest plantations are dominant phytophysiognomy. In this case organic acids from left field crop debris could consume alkaline reserve in all soils draining water ecosystems, as well. Lakes, rivers and reservoirs would experiment lowering in pH, dissolved heavy-metal concentration increases, which would bring subtle but permanent change on aquatic biodiversity.