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:

  • ASEAN countries cooperate to fight fires. Last week, Brunei hosted many of Asia’s heads of state at the annual ASEAN Summit. Countries represented at the summit agreed to cooperate on fire monitoring. WRI forest experts urge leaders to make concessions data publicly available and use existing satellite data to combat future fires.
  • Original WRI high-res imagery analysis. The recommendations are grounded in WRI analysis that found medium-resolution NASA MODIS Firms data detects fires 97% of the time.
  • Sixty new species found in Suriname. The internet is abuzz with the findings of a recent Conservation International trip to the forests of Suriname, where field biologists discovered 60 “likely new” species. See the CI press release here.
  • A History of the Amazon from Space. Nature Magazine covers the long-standing debate about humans’ historical footprint on forests of the Amazon. Researchers teamed up with remote sensing scientists to create a clearer, broader view of human activity in the Amazon over time.
  • Drones help save elephants. Conservationists in Kenya are harnessing the power of Google Earth and information from iPad-controlled drones to monitor illegal poaching of elephants. (The Guardian)
  • High-profile online palm oil debate. Don’t miss the most anticipated palm oil discussion of the year – streaming online tomorrow! On 17 October,, together with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WWF and Greenpeace will discuss what needs to be done to protect forests amid growing demand for palm oil. More details here.

Land use change and deforestation

  • Brazil to share deforestation tools… Brazil recently signed an agreement to share its groundbreaking forest monitoring methodology to help combat deforestation in seven other Amazonian countries. Via the Brazilian Environment Ministry [Portuguese]
  • …And the tools are much needed. Those tools could be incredibly useful if new analysis conducted by researchers at Terra-i and InfoAmazonia is valid. Using satellite imagery, they showed that deforestation in Amazon countries – excluding Brazil – has increased dramatically in recent years.
  • If you’re a tree, a slope’s the place to be. A new article in Nature reports that high elevations have the greatest relative concentration of trees and forests, though conservationists continue to question what this means for forest protection priorities.

Land tenure and indigenous rights

  • An ecological argument for demarcating indigenous lands. O eco presents an overview of indigenous territories and deforestation from space. Amazonia follows up with a pieceusing satellite data to show how demarcated indigenous lands have low rates of deforestation. [Portuguese]

Industry and forests

  • A delicate balancing act in Borneo. A blog post blog from PLOS considers how conservation goals can be achieved in Malaysian Borneo amid expanding logging operations, logging roads and palm oil development. Three studies cited used high-definition satellite imagery and mapping to analyze land use.
  • A broken agricultural system? Mario Rautner of the Global Canopy Programme writes that the world needs a more sustainable agricultural model if forests are to thrive. More than 50% of all deforestation in tropical countries between the years 2000 and 2010 was caused by the production and trade of a small number of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soya and beef products. (Sustainability, Thomas Reuters)

REDD: forests and climate change

  • Financial Times features digital tech for climate resilience. Andrew Steer, President of World Resources Institute, was quoted in a Financial Times article that emphasized the role of new digital technologies in creating climate resilience. Steer said that Global Forest Watch in particular will “transform the way forests are managed.”
  • Validating carbon stocks with remote sensing. Supported by a NASA grant, researchers from the University of Delaware, the US Forest Service and Mexico’s Forestry Commission will use satellite images to help implement Mexico’s national REDD strategy. (University of Delaware)

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

  • Mapping encroachment, tracking poverty. IIED is mapping encroachments in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to better understand the intersection of poverty alleviation and resource management.
  • Restoring the urban jungle. LIDAR images aren’t just useful in tropical forests. Urban planners are now leveraging existing terrain data to assess tree canopies in cities.
  • An environmental journalist’s guide to geospatial tools. Ecolab, a project of o eco, and ICFJ launched the Geojournalism handbook, a new resource guide for journalists to incorporate geospatial analysis in environmental reporting. The online module includes tutorials for making deforestation diagrams with Adobe Illustrator, using Ushahidi to make maps and more.

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