By Camellia Williams

This week we’re celebrating a huge Global Forest Watch (GFW) milestone – 1 million users! We’re delighted that so many people are using GFW to keep watch over the world’s forests. To celebrate this achievement we’re going to highlight some of the different ways GFW has been helping governments, businesses and researchers. It’s been great working with World Resources Institute (WRI) to help make these things happen and if you haven’t yet discovered GFW, now is the perfect time to jump in.

Making the link between forest change and climate change

The historic climate deal signed in Paris at the end of 2015 marked the beginning of a new commitment to address climate change and the threats it carries. In the lead up to the Paris Conference of the Parties, we teamed up with WRI to create GFW Climate, an app that lets anyone estimate carbon emissions from tropical deforestation using interactive maps and country dashboards. Knowing that everyone has different information needs, we made the reports totally customisable by using the powerful GFW API to expose the information being sought. The insight provided by GFW Climate improves access to the information on carbon stocks that is needed by financial incentive schemes such as REDD+, which reward countries and landowners for protecting and restoring forests. Learn more about what you can do with GFW Climate here.

gfwclimate-1Explore the impacts of tropical deforestation on climate change with Global Forest Watch Climate.

GLAD to see you

The introduction of Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) alerts to GFW earlier this year was an exciting development for governments, forest managers and communities who want to keep a closer eye on forest loss. It was the first time that high-resolution and frequent updates had come together in a way that alerts people in almost real time when illegal logging, mining or agriculture is detected. To make the most of the data we had to find the balance between fast loading times and high accuracy. After some experimentation we decided to show summary raster layers when zoomed out which then transitioned to point data as you zoomed in. In Indonesia, the GLAD alerts mean that palm oil plantations can be monitored more carefully for expansion which is great news for companies that want their supply chains to be free of deforestation. You can read more about that here.

1-ISNOjt9boqGyaUlxG3y1kQWeekly GLAD alerts let you pinpoint deforestation as it occurs.

Don’t just tell me, show me

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so that’s why we made it easy to embed GFW maps into your own work. This means anyone can embed anything they discover on GFW and share it with their friends, colleagues, or the whole world. Last year, a Brazilian journalist, Piero Locatelli, embedded a GFW map into his report on the construction of the Teles Pires hydroelectric dam. He claimed that the companies responsible for building the dam had not fully complied with their environmental plan and had left wood to rot in flood areas instead of clearing it away. Mr. Locatelli used the maps to show the location of the dam under construction and the extent of deforestation in the wider region, helping to raise awareness of the situation. The blog went viral and 38,000 people came to explore Brazil’s forests themselves on GFW.

1-YGI32DFVawqJTRTlozNA5wOn Global Forest Watch you can see the location of dams that are proposed, under construction, or completed and watch an animation of the associated tree cover loss.

Eye on the tiger

Earlier this year we heard great news: the number of tigers in the wild had increased for the first time in 100 years. Keeping track of where these tigers live is an essential part of their conservation and researchers have used data available on GFW to measure forest loss in tiger habitats. There was good news – forest loss was much lower than they expected across all tiger landscapes. But there was also bad news. Analysis showed that 98 per cent of the total forest loss in tiger habitats was concentrated in just 10 landscapes, where large-scale agriculture is driving deforestation. You can read more about this here and explore the interactive maps here. In these maps, the carefully chosen colour scheme really highlights where overlaps of forest loss and tiger conservation landscapes occur.

alt textTiger Conservation Landscapes is just one of the data layers you can add to your map in Global Forest Watch.

We’re really proud of what people are achieving with GFW. Together with WRI we will continue to develop and refine GFW to deliver the best experience for everyone who uses it. Over the next month, our social scientist Jamie Gibson will be taking a deep dive into the GFW analytics to discover what people are looking at most and share his insights on how we can make sense of big datasets.


Camellia Williams is a lead writer at Vizzuality.

This post originally appeared on the Vizzuality blog.

BANNER PHOTO by FORAGUA, a 2016 GFW Small Grants Fund recipient.