In this update, Global Forest Watch publishes a roundup of top forest news from around the world. Many of these stories demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in monitoring and analyzing forest change and improving 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:

  • Forest Asia Summit. This month, CIFOR hosted the Forest Asia Summit in Jakarta from May 5-7, bringing together 2,200 participants and some of the biggest names in conservation. Find out what happened at the conference website, here.  GFW Senior Manager Crystal Davis spoke on how cutting-edge mapping technology and better data can revolutionize forest protection.
  • A big boost for Brazilian protected areas. WWF and the Brazilian government announced a ground-breaking $215 million fund to continue work on the Amazon Region Protected Areas project. This large-scale conservation project involves combination of private and public funds, and aims to ensure the protection of 60 million hectares of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon for the next 25 years.
  • Small satellites to revolutionize how we see the world. BBC Technology profiles the pioneering earth imagery company, Planet Labs, which plans to launch 131 small satellites in the next year. You will be able to pick out individual trees from this imagery, offering an “unprecedented understanding” of changes on the surface of the planet.
  • From saving chimps to microchips. The iconic conservationist Jane Goodall asks young people to honor her birthday by considering how technology can transform our world. Writing in the official Google blog, she explains how the Jane Goodall Institute, a GFW partner, is using mobile technology to monitor forests and chimp habitats. They recently launched an online course in community mapping to empower local stakeholders.

Land use change and deforestation

  • Rethinking the poverty – deforestation connection. For decades, conventional wisdom has held that poverty drives environmental degradation, as the poor exploit the natural resources they need to survive. But a new global study from the Poverty and Environmental Network challenges this link. The researchers found that the neediest, most market-isolated households cleared less forest than households in the middle-range of wealth. They hope their findings will inform development policy, and debates on REDD+ and landscape management. (via CIFOR blog)
  • Logged forests need protection, too. In a recent editorial, esteemed tropical forest researcher William Laurence and David Edwards urge readers to reconsider logged forests as critical pieces in landscape-scale conservation. They draw on research showing that selectively logged areas may be more ecologically valuable than previously thought. And with 400 million hectares of tropical forests under timber concessions, perhaps we can’t afford to ignore logged landscaped any longer.  (Via Mongabay)
  • The numbers don’t lie in Myanmar. A new investigative report by the EIA exposes discrepancies between Myanmar’s official logging export numbers and global imports of wood from the country. Their number-crunching suggests that up to 72% of all timber shipments were illicit. This is a great example of how improved data and transparency can shed light on unsustainable environmental practices.

Land tenure and indigenous rights

  • A gathering of Forest Peoples. Last month, indigenous communities from around the tropics met in Central Kalimantan and signed the Palangkaraya Declaration on Drivers of Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples calling attention to the struggle of forest-dependent communities against infrastructure, agribusiness, and more. Read more at the Jakarta Post.
  • Pushing back for the Awa Tribe The Brazilian government has begun a new effort to protect the traditional lands of the endangered Awa tribe of the eastern Amazon. Brazil’s army, air force, and military police have mobilized to drive back illegal loggers and colonists who have been expanding into Awa territory for decades, and monitor progress using helicopter flights. (via the BBC)

Industry and forests

  • Investors deliver a new kind of green to shareholders. WRI’s Janet Ranganathan outlines three reasons why investors are starting to take sustainability more seriously, including the advances in monitoring technology that make things like deforestation hard to conceal. (via the Guardian)
  • “Zero-deforestation” is the new norm. But will it work? The Future500 blog gives us a rosy view this week of the zero-deforestation movement in supply chains. With governments gridlocked, Erik Wohlgemuth thinks “regulating by retail” is the way to achieve environmental outcomes. But this long-form piece from Mongabay dives deep into the “acute challenges” companies face in implementing their new commitments. Are these new targets too ambitious to be practical
  • Refreshing and regreening. PepsiCo is the latest in a long line of companies announcing new sustainable palm oil sourcing policies. While PepsiCo claims the new policy builds upon and goes beyond RSPO requirements, some environmental organizations question if their new commitments go far enough. Read PepsiCo’s announcement here.  (via Mongabay)
  • Forest-friendly fashion. Two of the world’s biggest clothiers, Zara and H&M, also recently announced forest-friendly sourcing policies. Rayon, viscose, modal and other trademarked fabrics are increasingly made from materials found in the world’s most endangered forests. Research by Canopy estimates that some 70 million trees are cut annually for fabric production and expects that number to double in 20 years.


REDD+, forests, and climate change

  • Degradation, decrypted – with dire results. A new study takes on the second “D” in REDD: degradation. Degradation is much harder to detect from satellite imagery than deforestation, meaning its impact and scope go understudied. Thus, these researchers found that carbon emissions from degradation in the Amazon are vastly underestimated. (via the BBC)
  • Big new fund supports small-scale efforts. UN-REDD, along with the GEF, announced a small grants fund for community-based REDD+. The fund will grant up to $50,000 to community-level projects that build capacity and readiness for REDD+ activities. The project is being piloted in Cambodia, DRC, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, and Sri Lanka. (Via iisd)

Spatial analysis, remote sensing, and crowd-sourcing for the environment

  • The next big idea in conservation? Crowdsourced monitoring. interviews Carlos De Souza of Imazon, a leading Brazilian NGO and GFW partner, on forest monitoring. Carlos explains how mobile technology has revolutionized forest monitoring, and the challenges to bringing these projects to scale. (via Mongabay)
  • Green espionage. Researchers in Australia are using “spycams” to gague how forests respond to various stressors. The surveillance technology, called phenocams, overcomes some of the weaknesses of satellite observations, and are more cost-effective to sustain than field-based observations. They hope to scale this approach up for improved forest monitoring across the continent. (via PhysOrg)
  • See where forests are burning. A map of NASA active fires has been making the rounds on the Internet, with the cringe-worthy headline: “this map shows where all the world’s forests are burning.” Don’t forget – NASA’s fire data, updated daily, is available on the Global Forest Watch site.  (via Global Post)

Think we missed a story? Let us know! All editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own.