With Google Earth around, it seems almost a waste of time to step outside your front door. You can discover rare fringe coral reefs, stop deforestation, travel under the ocean....and even discover new unmapped forests that harbor unknown species of animals.
And that's exactly how BirdLife used Google Earth and ended up finding three new species of butterfly, one new species of snake, and seven threatened species of birds.
The team were browsing Google Earth — freely available software providing global satellite photography — to search for potential wildlife hotspots. A nearby road provided the first glimpses of a wooded mountain topped by bare rock. However, only by using Google Earth could the scientists observe the extent of woodland on the other side of the peak. This was later discovered to be the locally known, but unmapped, Mount Mabu..."This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I'm aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map", related Jonathan Timberlake from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), who led the expedition.
Thanks to the discovery and the resulting expedition held last fall, the area is getting significant attention as a conservation spot. Of course, the best conservation strategy it might have had was remaining undiscovered. There are definitely pros and cons to Google Earth.
BirdLife has plans to recognise it as an Important Bird Area (IBA), "Mount Mabu effortlessly qualifies as an IBA", said Dr Fishpool. Ground-level measures could be most effective conservation for the immediate future: "Remoteness is currently its best protection. We hope to work alongside the local tea-estate managers who are conservation-sympathetic and want to maintain the status quo of the forest".
Via Science Daily
More on Google Earth:
New Google Earth Layer Shows Global Deforestation
Indigenous Groups Document Environmental Destruction Using GPS and Google Earth
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Bioneers 2008: Using Google Earth for Environmental Activism
7 Ways To Save the World with Google Earth on Your iPhone