Pink shows areas deforested from 2001-2012 (Guatemala left) (Belize Right) Blue shows areas of regeneration. Click image for larger version.

The Cayo Tour Guide Association has a new article out entitled 'Falling Trees,' and it's all about how Google has aggregated data that shows how deforestation has occurred around the world, and Belize. Global Forest Watch is interesting, to say the least.

A closer look at areas along the George Price Highway deforested (pink) and areas regenerated (blue). Click image for larger version.

We are well aware that the beautiful jungles are being cut down throughout the country, wether that is as a direct result of logging, mining, agriculture, residential development or wild bush fires. Also on that list we find illegal logging, archeological restorations and even tourism development. The fact remains that jungles are being cleared in a rapid pace. Many times I have been driving and suddenly come to an area that was once lush and is now an open field. For example, last year a very large area was burnt and cleared just before the Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch. Up to date, nothing has been done with the land. I'm assuming it will be for farmland use. How about on the road to the ATM Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave where land owned by the local hot sauce company was also cleared for farming, or near and around Spanish Lookout where they removed everything for corn and cattle ranching.

The very hard work that is being done by the FCD or Friends For Conservation team at the Chiqubul National Park is certainly amazing. They are documenting wildlife and monitoring illegal logging. We know that over the years, many Guatemalans have been illegally entering the protected areas. At first they were harvesting the leaves of the xate, a short jungle palm, used in floral arrangements. As they continued, the leaves became very scarce and they started cutting down large mahogany, Mexican cedars and many other woods. While in the jungle, they are hunting many animals like deer and the peccaries. In fact, in a recent conversation with Derrick Chan, ranger of the Chiquibul Park, he said that no peccaries have been documented in the Chiquibul National Park. Today, small creeks and streams, the water sources for the country of Belize, are even being redirected and polluted as a result of the gold panning being done in the area. It's unthinkable what can happen to the country's ecology.

This now leads me to Google, yes the big fat giant that is on everyone's PC or on mobile devices these days, which has developed a new way to monitor deforestation worldwide, combing data for the past twelve years. Using services they already have, like google earth and maps you can monitor deforestation in almost real time, a technology that is still is in its beta form meaning it will only improve from here. They are calling it Global Forest Watch. The browser program uses layers to show areas of deforestation and also areas of regeneration worldwide including Belizean forests. Tweaking around, you can highlight protected areas and layers also show satellite and terrain images. In some areas, logging and mining can also be shown. The data is from 2001 up to 2012 so last year's activity is not visible just yet.