WASHINGTON: New satellite imagery shows an alarming shrinkage in mangrove forests worldwide.
The imagery reveals that approximately 1,37,760 sq km of mangroves exist, which is 12.3 per cent less than the previous estimates.
Mangrove forests are among the most productive and biologically important ecosystems of the world, including trees, palms and shrubs, reports the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.
"Our assessment shows, for the first time, the exact extent and distribution of mangrove forests of the world at 30 metres spatial resolution, the highest resolution ever," said Mr Chandra Giri of the US Geological Survey, which conducted the study.
Mangrove forests have adapted to the most severe environmental conditions thriving in regions of high salinity, scorching temperatures and extreme tides across the equator, according to the US Geological Survey.
"It is believed that 35 per cent of mangrove forests were lost from 1980 to 2000 which has had an impact on the coastal communities that use mangrove forests as a protective barrier from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis," added Mr Giri.
Using data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite, Mr Giri and an international team, including 30 student interns and visiting scientists from across the world, analysed more than 1,000 "Landsat" scenes using digital image classification techniques.
This enormous task allowed the team to slowly piece together the world’s most accurate map of mangrove distribution.