The first NASA photos are of the land slide area in Oso, Washington. The first image was taken before the landslide; the second after.
On March 22, 2014, the rainfall-triggered landslide sent muddy debris spilling across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. The debris swamped numerous homes, resulting in the deaths of at least 24 people, according to news reports. Dozens of people are still missing. The landslide created an earthen dam that blocked the river, causing a barrier lake to form. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of landslide debris and the barrier lake on March 23, 2014. An image of the same area on January 18 is shown for comparison. As water backed up, local authorities expressed concerns about a potential flash flood.
The numbers are staggering and often hard to absorb. Close to 25 million square kilometers (9.65 million square miles) of tropical forest are spread across 75 countries on three continents. The trees in those forests store 225 to 250 billion tons of carbon. Each year, vast tracts of those trees are lost to development and agriculture—about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) annually from 2000 to 2012. This deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air, between 15 to 20 percent of global emissions.
For a decade, conservation groups and governments have been working to slow the destruction of tropical forests and curb the increase of carbon in the atmosphere. Through a United Nations program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), negotiators strive to offset carbon emissions by industrialized nations and preserve forests in developing nations.
To study the spread of deforestation, scientists combine satellite data, ground-based surveys, and socioeconomic data to map a new way forward for tropical conservation. Tropical forests are believed to be home to as much as half of the world’s terrestrial species. They also contain some of the densest stocks of carbon, so a little bit of well-thought-out conservation can go a long way.
Their idea is to link existing forest and biosphere preserves with strategic corridors of densely vegetated (and carbon-rich) protected land. Emerging research suggests that even narrow corridors of undeveloped woodlands help the reproduction, genetic diversity, and survival of plant and animal species. Protected corridors also offer a safety valve for species that must move and adapt to climate change.