Capturing the World’s Forests Over a Single Day

Forests do a great deal of good for the planet — from purifying our air, to providing habitat for wildlife, protecting watersheds, preventing soil erosion, and more.

For International Day of Forests this year, we wanted to celebrate the beauty and magnitude of forests across the entire globe. So we embarked on downloading imagery of all forests captured by our fleet of Dove satellites over the course of a single day.*

Today, we’re sharing a video that takes you across four continents and contains more than 7,000 images of forests. Buckle up and get ready for an aerial whirlwind of greenery:

Pretty wild, right? Now what if we told you the video contains only a fraction of the total number of forest imagery Planet collects in a day — in this case, around 95,000 images. Planet collects a massive amount of data each day and has around 500 images for any given location on Earth. To extract “forests” from this data, we used an algorithm built to detect forest cover, dense green imagery, and high near-infrared averages.

Ridgelines dotted with trees in Oakvale State Forest, Queensland, Australia. Image ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

To help people actually “see the forests for the trees,” we then applied more filters to those 95,000 images so those with lots of cloud cover or with visible defects were removed. (Fun fact: it would take around 30 minutes to watch all 95,000 images at 5 images per second — not exactly optimized for social.) Afterward, we organized imagery by continent and built an animation to showcase the scale and diversity of forests globally.

Two lone boats sail across the scenic Kanas Lake in Altay Prefecture, China. The surrounding Altai Mountains are covered filled with spruce, birch, elm, and Siberian larch. Image ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

You’ll notice that many images don’t look strictly like forests and contain agriculture and development.

Forests meet farms in rural Boston, South Africa, just east of the Impendle Nature Reserve. Image ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

Of course, forests are not always untouched, pristine places, but dynamic environments that change dramatically with human interaction. Sadly, the world loses an area of forest the size of 48 football fields every minute due to deforestation and forest degradation.

Iron ore open pit mining in the Atlantic dry forest, which cover the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Image ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

Part of Planet’s mission is to create new tools and analytic solutions that help humankind monitor global land use change and protect forest health for generations to come. Learn more about that work here, and share a photo of your favorite forest to press@planet.com.

Dense jungle surrounds El Tule in Jalisco, Mexico, which is awash in sediment runoff after getting much-needed rain. Image ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0