News & Updates

Tuesday, 29. April 2014
Global forest Watch

Public tool to follow deforestation


Rebecca Moore joined Google after using the company’s Google Earth program to track the destruction of redwoods in her Santa Cruz Mountain community. “I thought, ‘Wow, this could be a great tool for monitoring forests around the world,’” she told us in 2009 – right after she'd begun working with the Surui Indigenous People of Brazil as they launched what has since become the world’s first indigenous-led project to use carbon finance to save endangered rainforest.

A computer scientist by profession and an environmentalist by passion, Moore launched Google Earth Outreach in part to foster the creation of a tool for monitoring global forests just as she had done locally. That, however, proved easier to imagine than to implement – mostly because the satellites scanning the forests use different degrees of resolution based on different technology and fly over the forests at different times, but also because it was n’t always clear what exactly those images were revealing.

Five years and reams of data later, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Google Earth Outreach this week launched Global Forest Watch, which is a powerful yet incredibly simple tool that lets anyone in the world follow deforestation using the most recent satellite data available. Building on algorithms that University of Maryland Professor Matthew Hansen described in his 2013 paper High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change and drawing on expertise and funding from more than 40 organizations, the platform combines data gathered annually at a resolution of 30 meters with data gathered monthly at a resolution of 500 meters. It harvests the power of cloud computing provided by Google to interpret the data and generate trustworthy images of forestland around the world. When forest loss alerts are detected, a network of partners and citizens around the world can mobilize to take action.

Watch the demo video here.

Source: Ecosystem Marketplace, Steve Zwick, "Enemies Of The Forest Beware: The Whole World Is Watching", 20 February 2014