The Forest Atlases are online platforms that help countries better manage their forest resources by combining government data with the latest forest monitoring technology.
Protecting forests is essential for human well-being. Yet in many forested countries, the management of these ecosystems is poorly funded and coordinated, making it hard to know exactly what’s happening in forests, and whether it’s legal or sustainable.
The Forest Atlases are online platforms that help countries better manage their forest resources by combining government data with the latest forest monitoring technology. The Forest Atlases include interactive mapping and database tools that forest managers can use to visualize, analyze and download data to make better-informed decisions. For example, government officials can avoid conflicts when zoning land by viewing which areas are already allocated for community use, logging concessions or mining licenses. A law enforcement official can measure which protected areas have experienced the greatest forest disturbance in recent weeks. Or a company can identify unexpected changes occurring in distant parts of its concession.
Who Uses Them
Forest Atlases are currently available for Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia, Georgia and Madagascar.
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Nine countries have developed Forest Atlases: Cameroon (which developed the first Forest Atlas in 2005), Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia, Georgia and Madagascar. In each of these countries, the national agencies in charge of forests created the platforms in partnership with the World Resources Institute to improve transparency of land-use information. The Forest Atlases leverage much of the global data and technology available on Global Forest Watch, while providing additional, country-specific datasets and building national capacity to apply this information and improve decision-making.
The Forest Atlases are accessed daily by governments, but also by companies, civil society organizations, journalists and everyday citizens who care about their forests. By making forest data more transparent, the Forest Atlases can improve how these valuable natural resources are managed for the future.
How They Work
The Forest Atlases are online information systems that allow users to visualize and analyze overlapping data on forest and land management. The Forest Atlases offer:
Maps of forest cover, vegetation, cities, roads, hydrography and more.
Maps showing how land is officially allocated. This can include administrative boundaries, conservation areas, places licensed for logging, mining and agriculture and more.
The Forest Atlases offer two types of near real-time alerts to quickly pinpoint changes in the land:
- Weekly GLAD deforestation alerts from the University of Maryland detail where trees have been lost at a 30 x 30 meter resolution.
- Daily VIIRS fire alerts from NASA pinpoint where fires have occurred at a 375 x 375 meter resolution.
Using the tools within the Forest Atlases, you can analyze how these different datasets overlap. For example, you can overlay protected areas, logging license areas and deforestation alerts to quickly differentiate between legal and potentially illegal logging, and ensure companies are acting in accordance with their contracts. You can also subscribe to receive regular alerts for specific areas.
How They’re Managed
The Forest Atlases are managed by national governments with technical support from the World Resources Institute.
WRI trains technicians within forest ministries on data management skills, particularly how to add new data directly to the Forest Atlas database, resulting in real-time updates as new information becomes available. In this way, the partnership not only improves transparency in the forest sector but also helps build capacity within forest ministries over time.
Cancelling half of DRC’s logging concessions
After the Democratic Republic of Congo declared a moratorium on new logging titles in 2005, a precursor to the DRC Forest Atlas was used to review the country’s 156 logging concessions. The tool helped reveal that 91 concessions, over half of the total, were illegal, resulting in the cancelling of logging rights on 12.7 million hectares of land.
Investigating potential illegal logging activities in Cameroon
In 2005, the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife used the Cameroon Forest Atlas to identify areas with potential illegal logging activity. The ministry determined which areas to investigate by overlaying maps of logging roads with forest and mining permits. Areas where logging roads occurred outside of legal permit boundaries indicated potential illegal logging activity, and were investigated by the government.
Improving Forest Management in Cameroon
Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife established community and council forests in central Cameroon based on forest loss detected using data and recommendations from WRI.
Transforming Liberia’s forest management
In Liberia, the Forest Development Authority developed a Forest Atlas to make their forest management more data-driven. The authority developed a Forest Atlas in collaboration with Global Forest Watch to manage and share information about forest cover and land use. According to the agency’s former managing director, Darlington S. Tuagben, “The Forest Atlas revolutionized how we communicate about the forest sector in Liberia.”
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