Clean Tech 101

Technology to Tackle Deforestation

Topics Covered

What is Deforestation?
Technology to Tackle Deforestation
Future Technology to Tackle Deforestation
Conclusion
References

What is Deforestation?

Deforestation is the loss or removal of a forest or clumps of trees on a very large scale and converting the resulting land for non-forest uses. Deforestation is becoming a global problem with extensive environmental and economic consequences. Smart technologies are needed to understand, control, and find solutions for this huge problem.

Technology to Tackle Deforestation

Google partnered with researchers from the University of Maryland, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and together they have developed the first ever high-resolution map of global deforestation using Google Earth Engine.

Sourced from: Think Stock

The project involved creating a series of high-resolution detailed maps displaying forests located all over the world during the time period of 2000-2012, along with all the changes in the forest landscape brought about due to tornadoes, fires, logging and disease.

Dr. Matthew Hansen, lead researcher, states that the major finding from this project was that the overall rate of tropical deforestation is on the increase, and the net loss of global forests was 1.5M km2 during the time period analyzed.

A detailed paper on the project titled “High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change” has been published in the journal, Science.

The scientists in the team developed models to interpret Landsat satellite data, while the computer program experts at Google used these models via Google Earth Engine technology on more than 650,000 Landsat images. If it were not for the Google Earth Engine technology, it would have taken a single computer more than 15 years to perform the same task.

Benefits of these high-resolution global maps are :

  • The map format is easy to understand and is available for the public, NGOs and governments world over, to refer and learn more about forestry practices, thereby hopefully take the necessary measures to curb unwanted deforestation.
  • The maps are scalable down to 30 m. The recent advancements in computing technology have made a high-resolution map possible.
  • The maps help people understand local deforestation in a global context
  • The map tool helps viewing specific examples of deforestation, for instance, deforestation caused by farm clearing or deforestation caused by wild fires.
  • The maps indicate areas of positive change such as Brazil, where illegal logging has been reduced over the past decade. Similarly, they also indicate specific areas with increasing forest loss, e.g. Indonesia and Paraguay.

Future Technology to Tackle Deforestation

Global Forest Watch 2.0 (GFW 2.0) is a powerful near real-time forest monitoring system, which will be combining new algorithms, satellite technology, cloud computing, mobile phone technologies, maps and human networks around the world to fight illegal logging and deforestation. It is designed to provide fast, online alerts regarding deforestation happening in remote locations. This is an initiative by World Resource Institute in partnership with an UN environment program, businesses and NGOs. It will be driven by Google Earth Engine and Earth Builder.

Conclusion

The global map technology team hopes that their maps will help in predicting changes in future land use and the effects of climate-related deforestation. Governments and environment-oriented organizations can use the readily available vast data to hopefully make better policies to protect the forests.

References

 

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