New monitoring tool consigns deforestation to the past

23 March 2014

Tesso Nilo is purple. More than half of this 167,000 hectare forest in Riau province, Sumatra, has a reddish hue on the digital map. Purple denotes forest loss. Blue indicates forest gain. 

The satellite-aided image delivered in near-real time comes courtesy of the Global Forest Watch (GFW) website of the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which was launched on Feb. 20. This free service, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, is a groundbreaking tool to track deforestation and forest degradation worldwide. Armed with this information, authorities can act quickly. 

GFW, however, is unable to distinguish tree-based plantations, like oil palm plantations, from natural forests. Nevertheless, it says it is now working on a “plantation forest map” for tropical regions to determine the location of plantations. Indonesia and Malaysia have large areas of oil palm estates. 

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