We look at how science and tech companies are developing digital tools, online platforms and even new plant species to combat deforestation and climate change
In the fight against climate change, trusted, reliable information is key. Having as many details about the areas of forestry under threat from deforestation or wild fires could make the difference between a short emergency and a full-blown catastrophe.
However, gaining detailed up-to-date information on the world’s ecosystems is not a simple process, especially in some of its more remote areas. Up until recently, researchers investigating the change in the world’s geography had to rely on statistical tables only updated every five years. But with the advance in technology, new online platforms are now available that can map the world in real-time, helping scientists to keep up with a rapidly changing planet. Here are just a few.
A new digital tool from Google and the non-profit World Resources Institute gathers data collected every two-to-five days from satellites to build detailed maps of the world’s surface, tracking its change in near-real-time. The tool zooms in on the planet in ten-by-ten-metre squares and uses artificial intelligence to classify each area according to nine different categories, from bare ground to trees, crops and buildings. This powerful tool enables scientists and researchers to monitor changes in ecosystems almost as they happen.
Global Forest Watch
Developed specifically for forests, the online platform Global Forest Watch allows anyone to monitor the world’s forestry, checking for illegal deforestation and forest fires, as well as conduct research into one of the world’s most important resources. Using a combination of satellite technology, cloud computing and open data, users can zoom in specific areas of forest to analyze their change in time, as well as be alerted to damage. Since its launch in 2014, over four million people have visited Global Forest Watch from every country in the world, gaining information on how better to manage and protect the world’s forestry.
California Forest Observatory
The devastating series of Californian forest fires has created a need for detailed, up-to-date information about the forests so that authorities can better predict how fast and in what direction fires will spread. That information now comes through the California Forest Observatory online tool, which uses AI and satellite imagery to build a detailed view of the state’s forests, right down to individual trees. The technology can not only provide enough information to prevent future forest fires, but can also recognise details such as tree height – previously impossible without expensive laser sensors on small aircraft. The team behind the technology hope to extend the maps for other areas around the world.
Building better trees
While technology has the ability to monitor and help protect the world’s existing forests, scientists are also looking into the possibility of developing entirely new species of trees that can not only take in and store more carbon dioxide, but grow more quickly and be more resilient in certain climates. Whatever your view on gene editing, a number of researchers and startups are now working on growing modified trees that could improve their efficiency in carbon capture.
By tackling carbon, reducing deforestation and protecting threatened species, brands choosing Carbon Balanced Print and Paper can meet the needs of their customers, their own Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance commitments, and the planet.