A new initiative unveiled this week at the United Nations Forum on Forests will use Google technology to provide real-time information to help governments, companies and communities prevent deforestation.
Global Forest Watch 2.0 is a an interactive, real-time, forest-monitoring system that combines satellite technology, data sharing and human networks around the world to provide information to help better manage forests. World Resources Institute developed the system, in partnership with Google, the University of Maryland and the UN Environment Program.
“In achieving sustainable forest management, reliable, up-to-date and easily accessible data and information are essential to monitoring, assessment and effective interventions,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “This new tool represents an important step in empowering governments and communities to make evidence-based, informed decisions in advancing sustainable forest management.”
Several countries have made progress in improving the quality of information gathered about forests and making it accessible. One example is Brazil, with its near real-time forest-monitoring systems that have greatly enhanced its enforcement efforts.
“Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have dropped by 80 percent since 2004,” said Nigel Sizer, Director, Global Forests Initiative, World Resources Institute. “This is in part due to their efforts to improve the quality and availability of information about what is happening to those forests and to make it rapidly available to those who can take action.”
The new initiative is now possible thanks to the convergence of technologies and human networks, including advances in high-speed Internet connectivity, crowdsourcing and satellite and remote sensing technology. Cloud computing and open source software also play a key role, as they now can be used to rapidly process and interpret large volumes of satellite data at low cost by utilizing clusters of servers scattered around the world.
The Google Earth team partnered with Global Forest Watch 2.0 to optimize easy access to cloud computing-based forest cover information, the announcement says.
In related news, last month International Paper become a member of the Global Forest & Trade Network in North America, a World Wildlife Fund initiative focused on eliminating illegal logging and promoting environmentally and socially responsible forest management.