Forests in Flux

Original article was published by Taylor McDowell on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


Assessing the change by neighborhood shows high-proportions of growth in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown, as well as those in the southwest part of the city. The relatively green and affluent neighborhoods of the northern part of the city experienced declines in canopy cover, mainly as the result of new construction. The fact that the urban heart of Atlanta is experiencing a “green-up” over the last decade might point, in part, to the endeavors of an engaged community. Take for example the non-profit Trees Atlanta, which has coordinated the plantings of over 140,000 trees across the Atlanta Metro — targeting urban centers and transportation corridors where trees are needed most.

Tree Canopy Change Density, 2009–2019

Mapping the distribution and changes in tree canopy will be a crucial tool for cities like Atlanta as they continue to plant trees and invest in their urban forests. This will be especially so if a new tree protection ordinance finds itself before the Atlanta city council this year. A new public ordinance would drive the preservation of trees, and dictate when and where new ones would be planted to offset loss from development. Such initiatives make it clear that the populous of Atlanta cherishes it’s city’s urban forest and wishes to see it thrive in years to come.

The 416 Fire

The summer of 2018 was a hot, dry one in Colorado — leading to an unusually intense fire season for the state. The official report of the 416 Fire, which eventually burned over 50-thousand acres of the San Juan National Forest, states that the fire ignited when hot cinder was cast from a coal-powered train into dry brush near the tracks. Evacuations followed in the communities near Durango while fire crews battled the blaze for the next two months.

Wildfire has always been an integral part of the American West, and for better or for worse, blazes like the 416 Fire have become the norm each season (fortunately, no lives nor structures were lost in the 416). An aerial snapshot of the Western States after each season would reveal a landscape in transition as forests and grasslands are lost or in various stages of regeneration. The image juxtaposition below reveals the startling devastation of the 416 Fire; the images and tree canopy were mapped one year before and one year after the fire.