A view from space can save the trees

For government agencies and conservation groups, protecting forests can be a tall order. Their resources often don’t allow them to cover the sheer amount of acreage they need to monitor, and there are a lot of places to conceal damaging and illegal activity.

But it’s hard to hide destructive practices from eyes in space.

That’s the idea behind GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system. Launched in 2016, GLAD uses satellite-acquired data to provide 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 the free and interactive interface called Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss. And it seems to be working, at least in one part of the world.

According to research led by Fanny Moffette, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, deforestation dropped by 18% in two years in African countries where organizations subscribed to receive forest cover warnings from GLAD. And 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.

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