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deforestation

Yet-to-be-released online mapping tool could make monitoring deforestation easy as Google

James I Davison's picture

We’ve written before about a climate-related effort in developing countries known as REDD – or Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. So one of the outcomes during last month’s U.N. climate conference that I found particularly interesting was an announcement from Google.org. During the conference in Copenhagen, the search giant's philanthropic arm introduced the prototype for an online application that will allow monitoring of forests around the planet.

Apparently, some believed that the overall topic of REDD may have been one of the few bright spots during the two-week conference. To me, it seems like this forthcoming online monitoring tool is no exception – particularly because Google products are often innovative, easy to use and reliable.

The announcement generated quite bit of media buzz, and Google.org’s press release has a nice explanation of why the online application, likely available to the public some time this year, might be so significant:

Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. … Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.

 

Online mapping tool gives view of forests in developing countries

James I Davison's picture

In July, biodiversity specialist and blogger Tony Whitten wrote a post about not abandoning old-fashioned conservation techniques as an important method of taking positive action on climate change. One of the important old-school mitigation methods, he wrote, lies in protecting the world’s forests through reforestation and avoiding further deforestation.

Accordingly, a big part of the ongoing climate change discussion includes reducing emissions through deforestation and degradation (known as REDD). And the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization now offers a tool to help monitor forests in developing countries. Using satellite imagery and other data, the Global Forest Resources Assessment Portal displays the information on an interactive map.

Returning to Siberut: Conservation changes on Indonesian island after 30 years

Tony Whitten's picture

It was clear that our study area on the Indonesian island of Siberut is now rarely visited by anyone. (More photos)

My last post described my reactions to going back to Siberut Island with my wife after a 30-year break, and this one considers the changing conservation situation there. The terrestrial mammals of the island are remarkable in that almost all are endemic, and among them are four species of primates (one an endemic genus) – levels of endemism equivalent to those found in Madagascar.

There has been formal logging on and off over the last 30 years but we hadn’t found a map of exactly where.  When we reached the basin where our study area had been, the views from the villages was of logged-over forest. The rights to log the forests had been negotiated with local clans, but in hindsight the benefits were pretty meager and short-lived. The trees the loggers sought were the large and magnificent Shorea, and with these now gone it is getting harder for people to make their dugout canoes. Also, we were struck by the contrast of the timber quality of the longhouses we visited in areas without logging against the timber quality of the small government-sponsored modern houses with corrugated iron roofs. The timber available now seems to start looking decayed as soon as it is nailed into place.

Deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia – mapping the "thwacking"

Tony Whitten's picture

Click map to enlarge.
Looking at the new maps of Sumatra's forests, the Once-ler in Dr Seuss' The Lorax would not conclude that we "cared a whole awful lot," but rather that we were cutting them down as fast as we please.

It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.

About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.

Customary forest, coffee growing and dancing on Buton, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tony Whitten's picture

Four years ago, the Lambusango Forest project started on Buton in Southeast Sulawesi.  Conservation contracts have included introducing village cooperatives to niche markets (for more, see my previous blog post). This film records parts of the final supervision mission:

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