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Landsat-based tool helps spot deforestation

(By Anusuya Datta) Deforestation is a global problem, more so in the developing and the underdeveloped world, thanks to ineffective laws and corrupt administrations in some parts of the world.

But help is at hand. Now, when a new road appears in the dense forests of Peru, or a patch of forest is felled Malaysia, anyone with an Internet connection can be alerted of the loss.

A Landsat-based alert system, developed by the World Resources Institute as part of its Global Forest Watch network, gives near-weekly alerts for changes smaller in size than a football field. The tool uses imagery from Landsat 7 and 8 to monitor forests across the world every eight days. That revisit time, or data cadence, together with Landsat’s 30 meter spatial resolution, allows land managers to know when small incursions into forests are being made — in time to respond before further damage is done.

Download the Global Forest Watch interactive map here

Global Forest Watch (GFW) — whose goal is to provide decision makers with timely information about global forests — teamed up with the University of Maryland’s Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) team and scientist Matt Hansen to develop this revolutionary tool. The three essential ingredients are freely available Landsat data distributed by the USGS, the Hansen-GLAD tree cover loss algorithms, and Big Data computing power like that of Google’s Earth Engine.

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