| SAO PAULO
SAO PAULO Feb 20 A new online monitoring system
will make it possible to quickly check the condition of tropical
forests around the globe that were previously under no
surveillance, potentially increasing pressure on governments to
Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) will
provide public access on Thursday to the new tool to evaluate
forests worldwide. Global Forest Watch (GFW) was developed by
dozens of institutions with the help of Google Inc's
It promises to improve scrutiny of changes in forest cover
in vulnerable areas of Southeast Asia, Africa and the Amazon.
"For the first time, we have united in one place powerful
satellite information analyzed in a way that is easy to
understand," said Nigel Sizer, director of WRI's Global Forest
The system uses high resolution data from half a billion
Landsat satellite images to measure tree cover loss or gain. It
also carries a tree cover loss alert, pinpointing where new
forest clearing occurs.
"With the exception of Brazil, none of the tropical forest
countries have been able to report the state of their forests,"
said Rebecca Moore, engineering manager with Google Earth
Outreach and Earth Engine. "Now it will be possible to have near
real-time updates of the state of the world's forests, open to
anyone to use."
The project was made possible by the Landsat imagery
archives opened to the public in 2008 by the U.S. Geological
Service, Moore said.
WRI expects the new system to also increase the pressure on
commodities suppliers in countries where forests are at risk.
Swiss food giant Nestle said the new tool could
contribute to better oversight of suppliers of raw materials
such as meat, soy and palm oil.
"It is going to help us dramatically to refine our work on
the ground, in places where we think there might be issues with
our supply chain," said Duncan Pollard, associate vice president
for sustainability at Nestle, a program collaborator.
Global Forest Watch will embed key information in the
images. For example, it will be possible to check which palm oil
company is operating in a specific area of Indonesia where
images have shown recent forest destruction. That could lead to
a buyer canceling purchases from a supplier, WRI's Sizer said.
Carlos Souza, from Brazilian forest research center Imazon,
a partner in the program, said projects to reduce emissions from
deforestation and forest degradation could receive a boost due
to increased data transparency.
"Investors could feel more comfortable to take part in
projects if they can track forest loss," Souza said.
The governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United
States are among the largest donors for the initial investment
of $25 million to build the tool.