Global Forest Watch is a platform managed by the World Resources Institute that uses satellite imagery and crowd-sourced information to provide near real-time maps of land-cover change and deforestation drivers. Land-cover information is provided by researchers at the University of Maryland, and is updated every 16 days for 500m resolution data, and every year for 30m resolution.
In addition to land-cover, the website compiles information on conservation areas and demographic information such as resource rights, land rights and population density. Country comparisons and information on illegal fires and commodities can also be accessed, and many datasets can be downloaded.
These tools have now been optimised for mobiles, offering the potential for on-the-ground monitoring of land-cover. For example, people on the ground can upload land-cover information in order to ground-truth satellite data. Alternatively, if land-cover change is identified in an area, this information can be submitted with its location automatically uploaded using the phone’s GPS.
Users can also explore their location using the maps to find out, for example, whether there have been deforestation alerts in their locality, or if there are particular management practices in the area such as reserves or indigenous territories. In addition, a component has been added to allow people to submit local case studies of forest change, facilitating a more complete picture of local forest dynamics.
In Tanzania, Global Forest Watch mobile application is being used by the Jane Goodall Institute to monitor chimpanzee habitat. Researchers have combined the tools with maps of chimpanzee habitat to find that 2.4% of their habitat has been lost in the last 12 years- the equivalent to five-and-a-half million hectares. They also found that rates of chimpanzee habitat loss are highest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire and Cameroon.