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Crowdsourcing Helps Identify the Drivers of Deforestation to Combat Forest Loss in the Tropics

A new study makes use of crowdsourcing to determine the drivers of deforestation to help fight forest loss in the tropics. The consequent dataset could be utilized to make high-resolution maps and help policymakers employ the best safety measures.

Crowdsourcing Helps Identify the Drivers of Deforestation to Combat Forest Loss in the Tropics.

Image Credit: Tarcisio Schnaider

Annually, around 10 million hectares of forest tend to disappear across the world, mostly driven by human activities like agriculture expansion, wood extraction or the building of roads. To fight this trend and employ effective conservation measures, it is vital to comprehend the drivers behind forest loss.

In a new study performed, an international group of scientists have harnessed the strength of the crowd and fixed a crowdsourcing campaign in December 2020 on the Geo-Wiki platform to collect data on the drivers of tropical forest loss that took place between 2008 and 2019.

The study has been reported in the Nature Scientific Data journal.

In the analysis performed, the scientists asked participants to determine the predominant and secondary tree loss driver that is visible in a randomly displayed location between 30° North and South of the equator and to note the existence of roads, buildings or trails.

Depending on a combination of quality and quantity, the campaign was developed as a competition, with prizes given to those who contributed the most. Around 58 participants from several countries entered and together they considered nearly 115,000 locations in the tropics, thereby leading to a dataset consisting of greater spatial resolution compared to any other such dataset so far.

With the high resolution and dense spatial sample of this dataset we can create refined maps and get a better understanding of the drivers of forest loss during the past decade. This is crucial to orient policymakers towards protecting remaining pristine forests, especially in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Juan Carlos Laso Bayas, Study Lead Author and Researcher, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Furthermore, being the first Geo-Wiki campaign concentrated on tropical deforestation, this campaign was also a step-up from early measures on Geo-Wiki, by offering participants with broad training materials and tutorial videos, thereby guaranteeing high data quality.

Also, there was a chance to talk “face to face” with experts from International Institute for Applied Systems (IIASA) experts through a chat service to resolve any problems that would arise during the campaign.

The dataset is considered an open-source and it can be used by policymakers, researchers and the public. A recent study performed by scientists of IIASA has already utilized the data.

This helps examine deforestation in safeguarded regions to gauge the effectiveness of the conservation measures and induce management change where needed.

Getting involved with scientists through crowdsourcing campaigns such as this one is easy, rewarding, and can be of utmost importance to generate real change of policies by providing validated data on global events.

Linda See, Study Author and Researcher, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Journal Reference:

Bayas, J. C. L., et al. (2022) Drivers of tropical forest loss between 2008 and 2019. Scientific Data.


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