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African Nations used satellite monitoring to cut deforestation by 18 percent

In two years deforestation dropped in African countries where organizations used satellites to detect decreases in forest cover in the tropics.

In two years deforestation dropped in African countries where organizations used satellites to detect decreases in forest cover in the tropics.

The carbon emissions avoided by reducing deforestation were worth between $149 million and $696 million, based on the ability of lower emissions to reduce the detrimental economic consequences of climate change. The research comes from GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch.

GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.

The research was led by Fanny Moffette, a postdoctoral researcher in applied economics in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Moffette collaborated with Jennifer Alix-Garcia at Oregon State University, Katherine Shea at the World Resources Institute, and Amy Pickens at the University of Maryland.

They studied deforestation in 22 tropical countries across South America, Africa, and Asia from 2011 to 2018.

“We think that we see an effect mainly in Africa due to two main reasons,” says Moffette. “One is because GLAD added more to efforts in Africa than on other continents, in the sense that there was already some evidence of countries using monitoring systems in countries like Indonesia and Peru. And Colombia and Venezuela, which are a large part of our sample, had significant political unrest during this period.”

Developed by a team at the University of Maryland that includes one of Moffette’s collaborators, GLAD made several improvements over its predecessors. It has very high spatial resolution, roughly 900 square meters, which is orders of magnitude more precise than older tools. And it can provide alerts up to every eight days if the skies are cloud-free when satellites re-image a section of Earth. Users can define custom areas to monitor. They then receive weekly emails, available in six languages, that contain geographic coordinates of the alerts within the monitored areas.

“Now that we know subscribers of alerts can have an effect on deforestation, there’s potential ways in which our work can improve the training they receive and support their efforts,” says Moffette.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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