A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa’s Congo rain forest, the second-largest tropical rain forest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.
The study, led by Liming Zhou of the State University of New York at Albany, shows that between 2000 and 2012, the decline affected an increasing amount of forest area and intensified. The research was published April 23 in Nature.
Shown above are areas of the Congo rain forest on a scale running from green representing the most greening in the forest canopy to brown representing the most browning.
“It’s important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate,” Zhou said.
Scientists use the satellite-derived greenness of forest regions as one indicator of a forest’s health. Researchers say a continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rain forest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage.
For more on the research, see this NASA press release.