Rampant forest destruction, retreating glaciers and explosive urban growth have been highlighted by a partnership between the United Nations and internet search giant Google.
Under the scheme, announced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Wednesday, before-and-after satellite images of 100 global environmental hotspots have been integrated into Google's popular mapping program, Google Earth.
"These satellite pictures are a wake-up call to all of us to look at the sometimes devastating changes we are wreaking on our planet," UNEP chief Achim Steiner said in a statement.
He described the selection photographs as "spectacular imagery" that offered a compelling "new way of visualising the dangers facing our planet today", and said it would lead to greater awareness and concern about ecological damage.
"By tapping into the global Google community, we are able to reach out to millions of people who can mobilise and make a difference," Steiner said.
Google Earth, which offers satellite images of the planet, has about 100 million users worldwide, who will now be able to use the program to access UNEP's "Atlas of Our Changing Environment".
Users can view the UNEP content by clicking on "Featured Content" in the program. This produces UNEP markers on each of the 100 hotspots and the before-and-after images are revealed by clicking on these markers.
Among the 100 "hotspots" included are the dwindling Amazon rainforest, melting polar ice caps, and the startling declines of Central Asia's Aral Sea and Africa's Lake Chad, shown in satellite images captured between 1963 and 2004. The rapid urbanisation of the US city of Las Vegas, between 1973 and 2000, and southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzen, between 1979 and 2004, is also shown.
Other crisis points highlighted include the rampant destruction of mangrove forests in Southeast Asia, notably in Thailand and Malaysia, and the effects of open-pit oil exploration in the Athabasca region of Canada's Alberta province.
The UNEP hotspots were added using Google's Keyhole Markup Language. Other information has been added to Google Earth by National Geographic, the Jane Goodall Institute, the US National Park Service, and Discovery Networks.