Friday, April 5, 2013

New Forest Monitoring System Addresses Data Delays

Forests are an integral part of life on earth.  Forests provide the livelihood for more than 1.6 billion people and support biodiversity, providing home to more than seventy percent of the Earth's land animals and plants. Forests provide several key ecosystem services as well. Trees are natural carbon storage systems and reduce greenhouse gases. They also have incredible roots that serve underground water utility functions, such as storing and releasing water into lakes and rivers.

The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and Interpol recently released a report entitled, Green Carbon: Black Trade, stating that illegal logging has created a criminal trade worth $30-100 billion annually, worldwide. Illegal foresting operations have gotten more organized in recent years. The use of bribes is common, but now illegal foresters are hacking government databases. They avoid arrest by moving quickly between regions and countries, laundering the illegal harvest by mixing it in with legally acquired timber.

Resource managers have been struggling to keep up with the criminal activity. Much of their struggle is related to the extreme delay in the access to monitoring data. The most recent forest maps of Indonesia took three years from the time the data was taken to being published online. Deforestation maps often take 3 to five years to create, making it difficult to respond to illegal activities. 

Global Forest Watch 2.0 (GFW 2.0) is "a powerful near real-time forest monitoring system that unites satellite technology, data sharing, and human networks around the world to fight deforestation." GFW 2.0 uses remote-sensing technology to show high-resolution deforestation maps on a user-friendly platform. The system uses satellite and crowd-source data which includes input from local communities.

The new monitoring system is the creation of collaborative efforts between the World Resource Institute, UNEP, businesses and NGO's from all over the world including Google Earth Engine. It is hoped that by providing better information, resource managers will be better equipped to combat illegal logging and deforestation.

For more information about GFW 2.0, visit their website.

Angelica Oman
Graduate Program Assistant 

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