Global Forest Watch Turns One: A Year in Review

It has been one year since the Global Forest Watch (GFW) platform launched, bringing online a cutting-edge dynamic forest monitoring tool that empowers governments, companies, civil society, and other stakeholders around the world with timely, accurate information to better manage and protect their forest landscapes. 

In this time, thanks to our users and our growing network of now over 60 partners, GFW’s tools and capabilities have steadily grown and interest in our platform has spread far beyond our expectations. Take a look at some of our biggest milestones from the past year.

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Satellite Data Reveals State of the World’s Mangrove Forests

By Asa Strong and Susan Minnemeyer

This article originally appeared on Insights.

The word “forest” often calls to mind a dense landscape of towering trees. However, some of the most carbon-rich and productive forests are clustered along coastlines in the tropics and subtropics. Mangrove forests, made up of salt-tolerant trees and shrubs, play a vital role in erosion and flood control, fisheries support, carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and nutrient cycling. Many coastal communities rely on mangroves for food, forest products and tourism revenue, and the forests provide a natural coastline defense to storm surges by reducing wave and wind velocity.

mangroves_0Mangrove forests play a vital role in erosion and flood control, fisheries support, carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and nutrient cycling. Photo by Klaus Balzano/Flickr.

New analysis relies on satellite data to survey the state of these important ecosystems. Using Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online forest monitoring platform, we found that the world lost 192,000 hectares (474,000 acres) of mangroves from 2001 to 2012, a total loss of 1.38 percent since 2000 (or 0.13 percent annually). This is a relatively low rate of loss compared to the rate of tropical deforestation, which stands at a total of 4.9 percent from 2000 to 2012 (or 0.41 percent annually). The tropical deforestation rate was calculated using the same tree cover loss data as the GFW analysis, and considered forests with more than 25 percent canopy cover.

Tree-Cover-Loss-chart-a_globalClick to enlarge

Tracking Mangroves with Satellites

Advances in satellite remote sensing of forest cover offer new opportunities to monitor changes in forests with far better consistency and accuracy than ever before. Our analysis relied on the 2001-2012 satellite data of global tree cover loss from University of Maryland and Google, overlaid on mangrove extent data mapped by Chandra Giri and collaborators and distributed by the United Nations Environment Programme. Continue reading

Global Forest Watch and Earth Journalism Network Announce Partnership

This article originally appeared on Earth Journalism Network.

The World Resource Institute (WRI) and Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) are pleased to announce a partnership to integrate EJN’s database of geo-tagged stories from its GeoJournalism sites, including InfoAmazonia in South America and Ekuatorial in Indonesia, into the cutting-edge Global Forest Watch platform.  Utilizing the JEO platform and its “story API,” Global Forest Watch now automatically integrates stories from journalists closest to forest change into the interactive online forest monitoring and alert system.  This unique partnership is the first time that comprehensive, updated global data about significant natural resource issues will be automatically married to local and regional narratives.


Communicating forest change and its implications for ecosystems and cultures is a complicated task.  The most effective approaches combine high quality data, such as the remotely-sensed data hosted on Global Forest Watch, with reports that spur conversation and action.  The GFW/EJN partnership marks a major step forward in terms of building a more complete picture of what is happening to the world’s forests – both from the sky and the ground.  The partnership will enable environmental journalists, researchers, policy makers, and industry analysts to gain a local and nuanced understanding of issues unfolding on the ground, improving the frequency and quality of reporting on forest issues worldwide. Continue reading

Global Forest Watch has a new look!

By Crystal Davis, Alyssa Barrett, and Sarah Alix Mann

Global Forest Watch is changing how people see forests. GFW launched nearly one year ago, captivating the world with interactive maps showing the startling disappearance of forests over time.  Now anyone with an internet connection can use GFW to monitor forests in near-real-time. But GFW is not just a forest monitoring platform. It is part of a growing global movement seeking transparency, innovation, and action to conserve and sustainably manage the world’s remaining forests.

GFW is constantly evolving to provide better data using more innovative technology. Over the past year, GFW has released nine new datasets and added 10 new features to the platform. We have heard from hundreds of Global Forest Watch users – including journalists, scientists, policy-makers, campaigners, and community organizers around the world.  With your feedback we are making GFW a more practical and powerful tool for our users.

A new look and feel

Global Forest Watch wants to help you find the information you need, as quickly as possible. As GFW’s offerings of data, tools, and user capabilities continued to grow, we needed to rethink the design and navigation of the GFW website. The newly redesigned GFW website is now easier to use and more action oriented. We have summarized some of the key upgrades below, and we encourage you to check out the new website for yourself and send us your feedback.


Find what you are looking for, faster

GFW offers a growing collection of data, analysis tools, and custom apps for a wide range of users. The new navigation bar will help you to find exactly what you are looking for quickly. The top menu bar is now organized by action. For example, we invite you to explore our interactive maps, download country data, or subscribe to alerts and updates. The menu bar also features “quick links” for frequently visited pages. Continue reading

Global Forest Watch News Roundup: Week of January 12

GFW News Roundup: Forest stories from around the world that demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in improving management of forest landscapes

To learn more about GFW, a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system, click here, or follow us on twitter at @globalforests.

Top Reads of the Week

Indonesia rolls back protection of carbon-rich peatlands. An Indonesian law that protects peatlands will be revised to allow for business-as-usual practices on the carbon-rich soils, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry. Indonesian Law 71/2014, passed in October of 2014, requires a minimum water level in peatlands of 40 cm. Oil palm and timber industry groups criticized the law and claimed it would harm industry, while environmental groups claimed that the law did not go far enough in protecting peat soils. Companies will be allowed to continue business-as-usual operations on peat with water depth less than 40 cm under the revised rule. Read more about how drained peat soils contribute to fires and climate change at Eco-Business. (via Mongabay and the Jakarta Post)

Increases in food production can go hand-in-hand with decreases in deforestation. A new study found that food production increased while deforestation decreased in Matto Grosso, Brazil between 2001 and 2010, potentially demonstrating the value of policies that push agriculture into already-degraded land. Between 2001 and 2006, soy production accounted for about 10% of deforestation in the province. Yet between 2006 and 2010 only 2% of deforestation was attributed to expanded soy production, with 91% of the production increases occurring on degraded cattle pasture. (via Mongabay)

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