Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online global monitoring platform backed by Google, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and over 40 other partners, has been launched to provide near real-time information on worldwide deforestation. The goal of GFW is to draw attention to the loss of forests around the world that is contributing to climate change.
GFW brings together advanced satellite technologies, open data and crowdsourcing to deliver near real-time, reliable and actionable data about what is going on in the forests across the globe. The development of GFW was spearheaded by the WRIâ€™s employmentof millions of high-resolution photographs from NASAâ€™s Landsat program.
The system makes use of the cloud computing power of the Google Earth Engine, the Google Maps Engine and new algorithms that have been developed by the University of Maryland. According to Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of WRI, governments, businesses and communities are keen to receive improved information about forests, and with GFW, they can now have it.
The near-real time monitoring platform is designed to fundamentally transform the way people and businesses manage forests. It will help identify those who are directly causing deforestation as well as recognize the ones who are working to preserve them. As per the WWF, deforestation occurs in various forms, including fires, clear-cutting for agriculture, ranching and development, unsustainable logging for timber, and deterioration due to climate change.
Data from Google and the University of Maryland reveals that the planet has lost 2.3 million square kilometers of tree cover from 2000 to 2012, which is equivalent to losing 50 soccer fields of forest every minute of every day for 12 years. The countries with the highest tree cover loss include Brazil, Russia, United States, Canada and Indonesia.
The GFW platform will also support indigenous communities that can add alerts and photos when intrusions take place on their lands. NGOs can identify deforestation hotspots, take action and collect evidence to hold governments and businesses accountable for their actions. Governments will be also able to use the GFW website to create more effective policies, reinforce forest laws, identify illegal forest clearing and meet conservation and climate goals.
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