Global Forest Watch, a newly launched global online forest monitoring and alert system, promises to use advanced satellite and analytics technology provided by Google Maps to lead a new crackdown on illegal deforestation.
The project, orchestrated by the World Resources Institute (WRI), Google and a group of 40 businesses and NGOs, aims to harness the latest satellite tracking technology and “open data” models to provide “near-real time” information on tree cover loss.
The group hopes that providing free access to monthly tree cover loss data for the humid tropics at a resolution of 500 meters will allow regulators and NGOs to detect illegal logging.
“Businesses, governments and communities desperately want better information about forests — now, they have it,” said Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of WRI in a statement.
“Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”
Forest loss alerts
According to data from the University of Maryland and Google, the world lost 2.3 million square kilometers (230 million hectares) of tree cover from 2000 to 2012—equivalent to 50 football fields of forest lost every minute of every day for 12 years. The countries with the highest tree cover loss are: Russia, Brazil, Canada, United States, and Indonesia.
The Global Forest Watch platform also would allow indigenous communities and NGOs to upload alerts and photos when encroachment occurs on their lands, providing further information on areas at risk of illegal logging.
In addition, an alert service will aim to notify campaign groups and governments when and where illegal deforestation has taken place.
Governments like Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo welcome Global Forest Watch because it can help them design smarter policies, enforce forest laws, detect illegal forest clearing, manage forests more sustainably, and achieve conservation and climate goals.
What’s new about Global Forest Watch:
- High-resolution: Annual tree cover loss and gain data for the entire globe at a resolution of 30 meters, available for analysis and download.
- Near-real time: Monthly tree cover loss data for the humid tropics at a resolution of 500 meters.
- Speed: Cloud computing, provided by Google, multiplying the speed at which data can be analyzed.
- The crowd: GFW unites high resolution information from satellites with the power of crowdsourcing.
- Free and easy to use: GFW is free to all and no technical expertise is needed.
- Alerts: When forest loss alerts are detected, a network of partners and citizens around the world can mobilize to take action.
- Analytical Tools: Layers showing boundaries of protected areas worldwide; logging, mining, palm oil and other concessions; daily forest fire alerts from NASA; agricultural commodities; and intact forest landscapes and biodiversity hotspots.