A near real-time deforestation monitoring system will soon cover all the world’s tropical forests, report the researchers behind the initiative.
Terra-i — a collaborative project between Colombia’s International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the School of Business and Engineering (HEIG-VD) in Switzerland, and King’s College London — has been testing its system in tropical Asia, extending its reach beyond its stronghold in Central and South America. Terra-i uses data from NASA’s satellite-based MODIS sensors to assess changes in forest cover at a 250-meter resolution every 16 days. The system is similar to the near real-time deforestation tracking system used in Brazil by the government and Imazon, a local NGO.
“We can now provide near real time data on land cover change in Latin America and we expect to be producing pan-tropical results over the next few months,” Louis Reymondin, a researcher at CIAT, told mongabay.com. “Since this is the first continental scale system on operation and the first to work outside of the Brazilian Amazon, this allows a similar level of reporting and understanding of land cover change for other countries as Brazil has had in place for some time.”
The system detects deforestation based on changes in “greenness” in natural vegetation. It normalizes seasonal vegetation response to rainfall to reduce false positives. The data is then mapped and made available for download via www.terra-i.org. For Latin America, data is available at the national level and by protected area, ecosystem, and state or municipality.
Deforestation in Borneo 2004-2012, according to Terra-i
Reymondin says Terra-i has applications beyond serving as a deforestation alert system.
“Terra-i has a range of applications, such as: monitoring the effectiveness of conservation; assessing the impact on the environment of the construction of new infrastructure like roads; assessing the contribution of deforestation to climate change and understanding the likely impacts of deforestation on downstream and downhill populations.”
Terra-i isn’t the only near real-time deforestation alert system under development. The World Resources Institute (WRI) is putting the final touches on Global Forest Watch, a tool that will also track deforestation on a bi-weekly basis, while offering layers like plantation concession maps as well as providing a mechanism for users to share photos and reports from the field.
(04/09/2013) World Resources Institute (WRI) today previewed a long-awaited tool that could revolutionize global forest monitoring, reports the UN Forum on Forests, which is meeting this week in Istanbul, Turkey.
(04/03/2013) Efforts to monitor the world’s forests and other ecosystems got a big boost in February with the launch of Landsat 8, NASA’s newest earth observation satellite, which augments the crippled Landsat 7 currently orbiting Earth (technically Landsat 8 is still named the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and will remain so until May when the USGS turns control of the satellite over to NASA). Landsat 8/LDCM is the most advanced Earth observation satellite to date. It is the eighth Landsat since the initial launch in 1972.
(07/11/2012) Efforts to rapidly and accurately track deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru got a boost this week with a special technical training session organized by the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force. The meeting, convened at Stanford University and Google’s Silicon Valley campus, paired staffers from government agencies and NGOs in the four tropical countries with technical experts from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Forum on Readiness for REDD, Woods Hole Research Center, and Google Earth Outreach. The participants received training to augment existing deforestation, forest degradation and biomass monitoring capabilities, which are highly variable both between countries and within sub-national agencies and jurisdictions.
(06/20/2012) A system providing monthly alerts on deforestation and forest degradation in the Brazilian Amazon will soon be generated on the Google Earth platform Engine, reducing the time it takes to process and disseminate data, reports Imazon, the Brazilian NGO that developed the Alert System of Deforestation (SAD).
(03/30/2012) Researchers have developed a methodology for accurately predicting where deforestation will occur in the Amazon up to a year in advance, enabling law enforcement agencies and officials to take preventative action before trees are actually chopped down, a forestry expert told mongabay.com on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship.
(02/08/2011) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the world’s best deforestation tracking system is found in the country with the most rainforest: Brazil. Following international outcry over immense forest loss in the 1980s, Brazil in the 1990s set in motion a plan to develop a satellite-based system for tracking changes in forest cover. In 2003 Brazil made the system available to the world via its web site, providing transparency on an issue that was until then seen as a badge of shame by some. Since then Brazil has become recognized as the standard-bearer for deforestation tracking and reporting—no other country offers the kind of data Brazil provides. Space engineer Gilberto Camara has overseen much of INPE’s earth sensing work and during his watch, INPE has released several new exciting capabilities.
(09/29/2010) In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of satellite-based monitoring applications and technologies, which is perhaps best exemplified in the eyes of the public by Google Earth, which allows anyone with a decent internet connection to view overhead images of nearly any place on Earth. But these new applications are also helping scientists more effectively monitor environmental change, including the fluctuations in polar sea ice, shifts in oceanic plankton, and deforestation. An important factor in the expanded use of satellite imagery has been the U.S. government’s free Landsat Data Distribution Policy, which allows free or inexpensive access to data captured by Landsat satellites, which have been collected data on a regular basis since 1972. But the Landsat program is not presently operating at its full capacity, increasing the risk of a ‘data gap’ before a new system is in place in 2012.
(04/13/2009) In October 2008 scientists with the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew discovered a host of previously unknown species in a remote highland forest in Mozambique. The find was no accident: three years earlier, conservationist Julian Bayliss identified the site—Mount Mabu—using Google Earth, a tool that’s rapidly becoming a critical part of conservation efforts around the world. As the discovery in Mozambique suggests, remote sensing is being used for a bewildering array of applications, from monitoring sea ice to detecting deforestation to tracking wildlife. The number of uses grows as the technology matures and becomes more widely available. Google Earth may represent a critical point, bringing the power of remote sensing to the masses and allowing anyone with an Internet connection to attach data to a geographic representation of Earth.
(03/31/2009) Satellites have long been used to detect and monitor environmental change, but capabilities have vastly improved since the early 1970s when Landsat images were first revealed to the public. Today Google Earth has democratized the availability of satellite imagery, putting high resolution images of the planet within reach of anyone with access to the Internet. In the process, Google Earth has emerged as potent tool for conservation, allowing scientists, activists, and even the general public to create compelling presentations that reach and engage the masses. One of the more prolific developers of Google Earth conservation applications is David Tryse. Neither a scientist nor a formal conservationist, Tryse’s concern for the welfare of the planet led him develop a KML for the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE of Existence program, an initiative to promote awareness of and generating conservation funding for 100 of the world’s rarest species. The KML allows people to surf the planet to see photos of endangered species, information about their habitat, and the threats they face. Tryse has since developed a deforestation tracking application, a KML that highlights hydroelectric threats to Borneo’s rivers, and oil spills and is working on a new tool that will make it even easier for people to create visualizations on Google Earth. Tryse believes the development of Google Earth is a watershed moment for conservation and the environmental movement.
(03/26/2008) Remote sensing is increasingly used as a tool for conservation management. Beyond traditional satellite imagery popularized by Google Earth, new sensing applications are allowing researchers located anywhere in the world to track fires, illegal logging and mining, and deforestation in some of Earth’s most isolated regions using a computer or handheld device. The Fire Alert System is one example of an application that is harnessing the power of satellites to deliver key data to conservation managers. Developed by Madagascar’s ministry of Environment, the International Resources Group, conservation International using data from the University of Maryland and NASA, the Fire Alert System enables near real-time monitoring of fires anywhere on the island of Madagascar, a hotspot of biological diversity. The system, which sends subscribers regular email alerts on newly-detected burning, will eventually be expanded to include all the world’s protected areas, allowing managers to detect not only fires but potentially related activities like road building, logging, and even hunting.
(11/15/2006) Deep in the most remote jungles of South America, Amazon Indians are using Google Earth, Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping, and other technologies to protect their fast-dwindling home. Tribes in Suriname, Brazil, and Colombia are combining their traditional knowledge of the rainforest with Western technology to conserve forests and maintain ties to their history and cultural traditions, which include profound knowledge of the forest ecosystem and medicinal plants. Helping them is the Amazon conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization working with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests.