WRI in partnership with 50 organizations launched Global Forest Watch (GFW) in February 2014. The online platform uses satellite and other data to track forest cover change in near-real time. It has catalyzed a dramatic increase in action against unsustainable and illegal forest practices, and governments and businesses are using GFW to improve forest management transparency and accountability.
The world lost nearly 13 million hectares of forest—an area roughly the size of England—every year between 2000 and 2010. Agriculture and logging were largely responsible, which in turn led to higher greenhouse gas emissions, regional haze, water pollution and a decline in biodiversity. The lack of timely, reliable data on what is happening in forests, where degradation is occurring, and who is responsible makes it difficult to prevent further deforestation.
In 2011, WRI began building a network that’s grown to 50 organizations to create a publicly accessible, user-friendly, online tool to provide accurate, up-to-date data on the status of the world’s forests.
Global Forest Watch’s (GFW) launch event in February 2014 offered a window on global tree cover loss and gain, and provided national statistics, tree cover loss alerts and vast amounts of other information. By July, two new applications were also available: GFW Commodities, which shows the impact of palm oil suppliers and other commodities on forests, and GFW Fires, which monitors and analyzes forest fires across Southeast Asia.
While WRI led this work, the mobilization of a path-breaking partnership was central to its success. Partners include the University of Maryland, Google, Esri, Center for Global Development, Imazon, GFW Canada, ScanEx, Transparent World, Jane Goodall Institute, CartoDB, Vizzuality and Blueraster. Major funding came from Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, USAID, Global Environment Facility , DFID, Tilia Fund, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Sida, Bobolink Foundation and Danida.
GFW has catalyzed a dramatic increase in action against unsustainable and illegal forest practices. Governments and businesses are using GFW to improve forest management transparency and accountability. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil has used GFW to help members disclose where palm oil companies operate. Indonesia, a core partner, uses GFW Fire’s ultra-high resolution images to crack down on illegal burning. And the tool has received worldwide attention, with more than 450,000 unique visitors, more than 1,200 media stories, and countless interactions via social media.