ODC’s forest cover change maps illustrate the extent and rate of reduction in Cambodia’s forest cover change over the
past 40 years. The maps focus on changes in evergreen forest, referred to as “dense forest” in Cambodia. In English,
Cambodia’s dense forest might also be termed primary forest. Analysis of satellite images shows that in 1973
approximately 72.11 percent of Cambodia was covered by forest. More recent images suggest that today’s forest cover
is closer to 46.33 percent, inclusive of tree plantations.
Both animated and static maps are included on this page. Seven videos animate the change in forest cover for the entire
country, while six static maps show more detailed views of particular regions. Regional animations show the boundaries of
Cambodia’s protected zones, comparing forest change inside the protected zones with that of unprotected areas. Most of
Cambodia’s protected zones were designated in the 1990s. More information on protected zones, along with ODC’s static
maps can be found on our interactive page interactive page. Static maps
can be used as a base layer for overlaying features and other kinds of development information that is available on ODC.
Update: On 22 January, the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries published an official response to the ODC Forest Cover Changes page. View their report here.
Who made these maps?
ODC mappers began work on this project in June 2013. They are the first Cambodians to do this type of work and were
inexperienced in satellite image analysis at the beginning of the project. With training by experts from Vietnam’s Can
Tho University, they became increasingly skilled, and are now able to analyze maps to a high standard. These maps
represent a new technical tool, produced by Cambodians, to help understand environmental changes and inform
Bands: Bands of color are used to perform image classification. Band designations can be accessed at
the USGS website.
Visible cloud cover at the resolution of the satellite image. For 1973, the resolution of the satellite image is
60 meters. For all other years the resolution is 30 meters.
in Cambodia’s case, dense forest signifies evergreen forest, comprised of trees that do not lose their leaves through
seasonal abscission. Dense forest is mostly located at elevations higher than 500 meters, although Cambodia has also had
large areas of lowland evergreen forests in the past. Dense forest can also be considered primary forest.
Primarily regarded as dry mixed deciduous forest (deciduous trees drop and regrow their leaves seasonally.) Mixed
forest may also include regrowth forest, stunted forest, mangroves, inundated or “flooded” forest, and bamboo, as well
as forest plantations growing rubber, acacia, and eucalyptus or other tree crops.
Non forest is not dense forest, mixed forest, water or cloud. Non forest includes urban areas, field crops, and fallow
or barren land, and other human-impacted areas.
An object placed in earth’s orbit that is able to photograph the planet’s surface at great distances. NASA’s
Landsat satellites took the images used to generate the maps on this page.
All bodies of water that are visible at the resolution of each satellite image. For 1973, the resolution of the
satellite image is 60 meters. For all other years the resolution is 30 meters.
ODC produced forest cover maps for 1973, 1989, 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2013 from satellite images. The earliest
images available for Cambodia date from the early 1970s. ODC selected satellite images for analysis based on
their quality, including the absence of cloud cover.
Analysis of Cambodia’s prewar forest, compared to forest cover in 1989, showed only minor changes, while significant
changes were observed between 2000 and 2013. Mappers were able to determine where dense forest was lost – the changes are
shown using contrasting colors. Dark green represents dense forest. Red on a map denotes areas of lost dense forest that
were first detected on that year’s map. As the animation progresses to the next frame, red areas disappear to reveal the
new status of the land as either mixed forest or non forest. In the last frame of the animation, red is used to show the
total amount of dense forest lost between 1973 and 2013.
Each “forest cover map” is composed of 16 to 18 NASA satellite images, which were obtained from the US Geological
Survey. The images are free, publicly available and can be downloaded at the USGS website.
Image classification was used to detect forest changes. This process involved converting multiband raster images into
a single composite band raster image. The composite band raster image allowed the mappers to identify five forest cover
classifications to be mapped: dense forest, mixed forest, non forest, water and cloud.
The 1973 forest cover map consists of 16 Landsat MSS images with 60 meter resolution. A mosaic was created from these
images, to which color bands 3, 2 and 1 were applied to identify the Region of Interest (ROI). Landsat TM images were
used at 30 meter resolution to create the 1989, 2000, 2004, and 2009 forest cover maps, with color bands 4, 3 and 2
applied. Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager satellite images were used at 30 meter resolution to create the 2013 forest
cover map. The map was analyzed by applying color bands 5, 4 and 3 to identify the ROI.
A forest change detection model was used with the forest cover maps to depict the loss of forest from one map to the
next, shown on five additional maps known as “forest cover change maps.”
Each of the seven animations, one national and six regional, is composed of 11 static maps: the six forest cover maps
and the five forest cover change maps.
Although the forest cover change maps are a product of rigorous analysis, a number of limitations and potential
mapping biases persist.
The ODC forest cover maps show trends in forest cover change focusing on dense forest. Classification is limited to
dense forest, mixed forest, and non forest. Since the maps are based on satellite images with a resolution of either
60 meters or 30 meters, it was not possible to differentiate the specific tree species that comprise the forests. For
this reason, the mixed forest classification may also include tree plantations. At this resolution it was not possible
to identify small pockets of deforestation.
2. Cloud cover:
All of the satellite images used to produce the maps contained cloud cover. This presents a challenge for image
classification, as information underneath the clouds cannot be detected. To minimize the impact of this, ODC sought the
clearest images with the least cloud cover. The 1973 image contained less than 1 percent cloud cover at 60 meter
resolution. The 1989, 2000, 2004 and 2009 images also contained less than 1 percent cloud cover, but at 30 meter
resolution. The 2013 satellite images contained 6.47 percent cloud coverage, also at 30 meter resolution. In ODC’s forest
cover maps clouds are depicted as white areas. Areas underneath clouds could not be analyzed.
Cambodia has two seasons: rainy and dry. The landscape of the country changes during each season. For example, vegetation
is greener during the rainy season than during the dry season. There are also variations in the size of water covered
areas between the seasons. Since image classification involved combining multiple satellite images taken during different
seasons, this may have led to slight analytical errors.
4. Scan lines:
A few satellite images contained scan lines. This created slight data gaps in image analysis.