Here is a map showing the general location of Australia’s tropical and temperate forests.
Australia’s forests face many threats including habitat modification, impact of exotic species, altered fire regimes, ecologically unsustainable resource use, and climate change.
The five largest deserts in Australia include the Great Victoria Desert: 424,400 km2, Great Sandy Desert: 284,993 km2, Tanami Desert: 184,500 km2, Simpson Desert: 176,500 km2, and the Gibson Desert: 156,000 km2.
The map above shows the general location of the five major deserts. A recent trend has been an increase in rainfall in these arid areas. For example some parts of the Gibson desert have doubled in rainfall from an average of 150 mm to 300 mm annually.
Along with this increase in rainfall in the desert regions, there has been a decrease in southern areas. Scientists say that this is the result of north-west cloud bands that used to bring rain to southern regions, moving north over central Australia.
Here is a map of Antarctica I designed showing the land and ice shelves.
Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in the world and is about 14.4 million square kilometers in size. 98 percent of the continent is covered by ice.
Ice shelves are formed around the continent where ice, which was formed on the land, moved off the land and is floating on the sea.
The ice on and around Antarctica has been speculated to be unaffected by climate change or global warming. There has been no evidence to suggest that melting Antarctic ice has contributed to a rise in sea level.
Another environmental characteristic is a large hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. It is still increasing in size but it has no effect on the continent’s environment.
Purchase an image of this map at higher resolution for only $2.
Here is a map of the Sahara desert that I designed.
The Sahara desert is estimated to be about 9,000,000 square kilometers. It is bigger than the total area of Australia and almost as large as continental United States.
It encompasses Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.
There has been speculation that the Sahara is expanding and encroaching on the Sub-Saharan region however these claims have not been proven.
Vegetation measurements taken from satellite images showed that over 11 years the Sahara ebbs and flows much like a tide and hasn’t been continually expanding.
In 1945, 61 percent of Thailand was covered by forest. This percentage dropped to 34 percent and currently about 28.4 percent of Thailand is covered by forest.
From 1990 to 2000 the rate of deforestation has been estimated at about 0.72 percent. From 2000 to 2005 deforestation had reduced to about 0.4 percent per annum.
The main driver of deforestation in Thailand is the rapid increase in population. This increase is most evident in the north eastern region where the forest is cleared for farming to feed the nation’s growing population.
The Government of Thailand has encouraged reforestation programs and had put in place a ban on all commercial logging in 1989.
The world’s tropical rain forest is located in South and Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia. It is the home for about half of all animal and plant species in the world. Also over a quarter of all modern medicine come from plants found in this type of forest. It is often called “the world’s largest pharmacy”. Vast amounts of the worlds carbon dioxide is stored in these forests. Therefore deforestation would lead to the release of this carbon into the atmosphere accelerating global warming.
Continue reading The World’s Tropical Rainforest
With the recent boom of web mapping, such as Google Map and Google Earth, the general public has enjoyed the convenience of free spatial data at their finger tips. Now even the most isolated of people are being drawn to the benefits of internet mapping.
As have the Surui tribe from the Rondonia region of the Amazon in Brazil. Though their cause is more crucial than the average Joe who uses Google Earth to find the location of a restaurant or to bring up a birds eye view of the house they live in.
Continue reading Amazon Tribe Embraces Web Mapping
The Boreal Forest – The World’s Carbon Storehouse
Canada’s Boreal forest (depicted in green in the map below) is part of the larger Biome called the “Taiga”. The Taiga covers the northern areas of the Arctic tree line. Canada’s Boreal forest in particular is considered the largest carbon storehouse in the world. It houses 22 percent of the the carbon stored in the world’s land surface. The Boreal stores twice as much carbon per unit area compared to tropical forests. This is due to the cold temperatures which preserve the soils resulting in deep organic soils that are thousands of years old.
The Threat to the Boreal Forest
Global warming and deforestation have threatened to release large amounts of carbon from the Boreal forest. 90 percent of all of Canada’s carbon is stored in the Boreal region. It is estimated that 186 billion tons of carbon is stored in the soil therefore destruction of the forest would greatly accelerate global warming. In response to this threat the Canadian Government implemented a plan to protect 25 million acres of Boreal land in November 2007.
Map of China’s Desert
China’s desert area is increasing at an alarming rate. The Gobi desert has increased in size by 25,000 square miles since 1994 and it’s sands have encroached as far as 100 miles from Beijing, the host city of the 2008 Olympic games.
The dust from the desert contributes to poor visibility and health problems such as respiratory and skin disorders. Moreover the desertification reduces the amount of arable land and therefore affects China’s ability to produce grains to feed its population. Official reports say that about 4000 villages across China have been swallowed up by the encroaching desert and it has affected more than 200 million people.
Not only has the sands affected Chinese people but the sands are blown to nearby countries like Korea and Japan and even as far as the West coast of North America. The main causes of the desertification are a persistent drought, overgrazing, indiscriminate use of ground water and rampant logging. The government has been trying hard to fight the desertification by planting trees around the desert’s periphery, hoping to contain its expansion.
Made with Natural Earth. Free vector and raster map data @ naturalearthdata.com.
Map of the Amazon Rainforest
The Extent of the Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest is about 5.5 Million square kilometers and it represents over half of the planets remaining rainforests. It is estimated that about 587,000 square kilometers of the Amazon has been deforested since the colonization by the Europeans. The deforested land is primarily used for raising cattle and farming soybeans. The map above shows the current extent of the Amazon.
The Importance of the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon represents over half of the world’s rainforest and it is the most species rich biome in the world. It is estimated that one third of all species live in the Amazon. There are still many more plant and animal species not yet discovered. Many of these species could contain substances valuable for producing various types of medicine.
The plants in the Amazon absorb and contain carbon from the air. Therefore destruction of the rainforest would release carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Burning of the rainforest has made Brazil one of the top greenhouse gas producers in the world.
From 1990 to 2003 the annual rate of deforestation had increased due to local, national and international factors. 70 percent of all the deforested land is used for raising livestock such as cattle. The remainder is primarily used for growing soybeans and sugarcane, making Brazil the second largest producer of soybeans in the world.
Another contributing factor to deforestation is the growing interest in biofuel. As the world’s fossil fuel resources are becoming more depleted, the demand for biofuel is increasing. The biofuel, ethanol is produced from sugarcane in Brazil and Brazil has the largest national ethanol fuel industries in the world.