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lecture: Global Forest Watch: Using Open Data to Save the World’s Forests

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Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an interactive online forest monitoring platform designed to empower people everywhere with the information they need to better manage and conserve forest landscapes.

Thanks to open data, GFW is able to do the following:

  • Monitor when and where forests are changing. NASA’s freely available Landsat and MODIS data has allowed hundreds of scientists and researchers to develop innovative solutions to monitor landscape changes. Algorithms are now used to process and analyze this remotely-sensed data to show when and where forests are changing with surprising precision and speed.

  • Understand why forests are changing. Open data showing boundaries of land allocated for specific purposes, such as commodity production and conservation, as well as land management, allows us to understand why forests are changing. Are trees being cleared for palm oil? Are certain swaths of forests still standing because they are managed by indigenous groups?

  • Gauge the significance of deforestation. Additional open data provided by research institutions, governments, and others is used to understand the implications of deforestation on biodiversity, climate change, and provision of ecosystem services. For example, was a recently clear-cut area of forest home to endangered species? Was it a carbon rich primary forest?

  • Spark further innovation. GFW’s open-source code and APIs allow others to leverage GFW’s analysis tools and open data to create additional forest monitoring and management tools.

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