Soon, governments and citizens alike will be able to spot illegal loggers from space. A new tool called Global Forest Watch 2.0 will give anyone with a computer or smartphone the ability to zoom in on forests around the world and spy on illegal cutting operations in near-real time.
“Global Forest Watch 2.0 aims to transform access to information about what’s happening to forests everywhere around the globe,” says Nigel Sizer, the director of the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Initiative in Washington, D.C. “The platform allows people to see those numbers—how much clearing is done year by year in oil concessions in Indonesia, for example, or by a cattle ranch in the Brazilian Amazon—without involving training in technology or science.”
The open-access online monitoring platform, which will include two major data sets when it launches in the first half of 2013, combines satellite technology, data sharing and social networks to combat deforestation.
The first dataset, provided by the NASA MODIS system, is updated every 16 days. Over that same period, algorithms compute the likelihood that any given 250-square-meter patch of forest has been cleared based upon the remote-sensing imagery. Higher spatial resolution data, provided by the University of Maryland, will be added annually. The platform relies upon cloud computing for storing the massive datasets involved in visualizing and processing the maps.