In this update, GFW publishes a roundup of top forest news from around the world. Many of these stories demonstrate the power of spatial analysis in monitoring and analyzing deforestation. To learn more about GFW, a near-real-time forest monitoring tool, click here or follow us on twitter at @WRIForests.

Top Reads of the Week:

  • Unprecedented gold mining ravages Peruvian Amazon. A video of illegal gold mining in Peru produced by Stanford’s Carnegie Airborne Observatory has gone viral. Their sensor-packed plane recorded unprecedented illegal gold mining in the Peru’s Madre De Dios using high-resolution monitoring. The team published a map and analysis of gold mining growth in this region since 1999 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Analyses of Peruvian gold mining. The Independent provides a comprehensive overview of the situation in the Madre de Dios region. Ed Yong at National Geographic profiles the project and explains how gold mining became the leading cause of deforestation in this area of the world. Documentary film maker Stephanie Boyd, writing for the New Yorker, draws upon her years covering development in the Amazon to ask, “who is to blame for the gold mining boom?” All of these pieces are worth a read.
  • The shadowy world of hardwoods. The New York Times chronicles how illegally-harvested wood from Peru and Russia reach global markets, with a lot of help from corruption. The article features an excellent investigative video on Russia’s hardwood exports.
  • “Due Care” or jail time for US companies. A blog post by WRI’s Forest Legality Alliance explains how US companies can conduct “due care” to comply with national legislation banning the importation of illegal hardwoods and help forest conservation worldwide.
  • Seeing the forest for the (billions of) trees. Scientists conducted the most complete inventory of the Amazon rainforest and published the results in Science magazine. Their study revealed the Amazon is home to around four hundred billion trees belonging to 16,000 different species.
  • 30,000 miles to destruction. A team of scientists at University College London, analyzing satellite data and road maps, calculated that more than 30,000 miles of roads were built in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004 and 2007. By mapping road construction, researchers think they can aid future efforts to stop destruction of the Brazilian rain forest.

Land use change and deforestation

  • 30% of concessions in Laos granted to foreign companies. The Economist describes how the government of Laos has granted land concessions to foreign extractive industries, driving destruction of the country’s forests and biodiversity. Some fear rapid development will create a group of landless poor.
  • Cracking down on illegal logging by Chinese companies in Mozambique. According to experts, half the timber Chinese companies exported from Mozambique last year was not supposed to leave the southeast African country, nor even the forest in some cases. Now, both countries are taking a look at how to decrease illegal forest activities. (Thomas Reuters Foundation)
  • Want to save Indonesian forests? WRI urges “land swaps.” A new issue brief by WRI shows that reforming Indonesia’s forestry and agricultural laws could save forests. As a first step, existing degraded lands can be reclassified and used for palm oil or agriculture, instead of cutting down more forests.

Land tenure and indigenous rights

  • Mapping to promote culture and conservation. “Maptivism” – mapping for activism – is becoming an increasingly popular tactic for traditional communities to fight back against deforestation and land encroachment. The Christian Science Monitor describes several initiatives in Indonesia and Latin America that promote community mapping as a way to strengthen conservation, culture and traditional land rights.
  • Forest-dwelling communities can measure carbon. A new study published in the journal Ecology and Society claims that indigenous peoples can collect carbon stock data as effectively as high-tech systems. This means forest-dwelling peoples could play a critical role in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). According to the authors, “you can do all sorts of remote sensing and national inventories of carbon stocks but if you do not involve local community members, you are going to have a very hard task linking all the factors together to have real implementation on the ground.” (BBC)

Industry and forests

  • Mapping supply chain risk for better investments. GreenBiz explains the increased interest in commodity mapping, a practice where businesses trace the risks – environmental and social – across the geography of their supply chains
  • Companies blamed for dwindling tiger habitat. Greenpeace has singled out pulpwood companies APP and APRIL, as well as the palm oil producing company Wilmar, as the principle culprits in the loss of Sumatran tiger habitat. The activist organization’s new analysis claims that forest clearing to make way for pulpwood and palm oil plantations was responsible for almost two-thirds of all tiger habitat destruction in Sumatra from 2009 to 2011. The Greenpeace analysis draws partially from FORMA forest clearing alerts produced by Global Forest Watch and the World Resources Institute. (The Wall Street Journal)

REDD+: forests and climate change

  • Rush to REDD+ fails to address deforestation drivers. Recent media analysis found that when governments, civil society, and businesses discuss REDD, they fail to mention the underlying causes of deforestation. Although the fundamental causes of deforestation may be harder to address, they are critical pieces in holistic forest conservation policy. Thomas Reuters Sustainability discusses the media analysis findings in the context of broader policy debates.

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

  • Look to the skies for conservation. Adrian Hughes, a GIS Programme Officer at IUCN, penned a thoughtful meditation on the future of remote sensing and how it will enhance conservation efforts. In particular, he calls for accessible, user-friendly data sources, and mentions Global Forest Watch as an exciting exemplar case.
  • If you can map it, change it. ABC Australia profiles SkyTruth, a US organization that uses remote sensing and digital mapping to address environmental disruption. Their work aims to increase transparency around the scale of environmental impacts of various industries and extractive activities, and encourage all to take action to preserve the planet. SkyTruth was also featured in an extensive Washington Post profile earlier this year.
  • Brazil blazes trails in forest transparency. The CIFOR blog tells the history of how Brazil developed the most advanced and effective set of technology and policy tools to combat deforestation in the country. The Brazilian Institute for Space Research holds workshops in other countries to spread the technology and encourage others to develop forest monitoring systems.

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