Forest Cover Analyzer and Suitability Mapper to be used by business and government to reduce deforestation

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is launching two powerful online mapping applications that offer unprecedented capabilities to support industry and government efforts to achieve more sustainable palm oil production in Indonesia. WRI developed these web tools in consultation with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and many of its members.

The Suitability Mapper empowers companies and government planners to use a standard, easily replicable method to find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production and plan field assessments for further investigation. The Forest Cover Analyzer provides a unique set of monitoring tools to help buyers, investors, and governments strengthen incentives for avoiding deforestation when developing new plantations.

“Palm oil holds tremendous opportunities for people and business in Indonesia—and should be produced in a way that avoids destruction of vibrant lands and forests,” said Andrew Steer, President of WRI. “These dynamic new online tools will enable companies to better identify the best places for palm oil production and assess deforestation and other factors that are critical for long-term sustainability of this industry.”

Palm oil is the world’s most traded vegetable oil and a major agricultural product of Indonesia, the world’s leading producer. Last year, Indonesia exported 23.5 million tons of crude palm oil, worth about US$19.7 billion. The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations has contributed in places to the loss of Indonesia’s biodiversity and carbon-rich natural forests. At the same time, Indonesia has become the world’s leading producer of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil, which is produced according to a set of principles and criteria that include avoiding forest loss.

The RSPO was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The RSPO aims to transform markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm.

“Development of technology and tools such as WRI’s Suitability Mapper and the Forest Cover Analyzer enables RSPO members to practice sustainable oil palm production in a more credible way by identifying the land areas with the least impact to the environment,” said Darrel Webber, Secretary General of the RSPO.

“These two websites make it quick and easy to answer questions that we hear over and over again from industry and government officials” said Beth Gingold, POTICO Research Lead, WRI.

The Suitability Mapper helps users find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production, using a customizable map. The Forest Cover Analyzer allows users to view change in forest cover over time in areas of their choice, using up-to-date satellite data.

Both applications currently cover Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, and will expand to other areas in the months to come.

The following are examples of data derived from the new applications:

  • There are more than 14 million hectares of potentially suitable land for sustainable palm oil in Kalimantan.
  • Kalimantan experienced more than 2 million hectares of forest cover loss from 2005 (the RSPO cut-off date for primary forest clearing) to 2010.
  • There are more than 33 million hectares of high conservation value forest and wetland in Kalimantan with high likelihood of containing high carbon stocks and levels of biodiversity.

The applications were developed in partnership with Sekala, Rainforest Alliance, SarVision, University of Maryland, South Dakota State University, and Puter Foundation. They were designed with Blue Raster and are powered by ESRI.

This project has received generous support from: The United Kingdom Climate Change Unit Indonesia, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, NewPage Corporation, Walmart, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the International Finance Corporation - Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Program. (The International Finance Corporation is not responsible for the implementation or administration of this project).

Visit the website for more information and to access the web tools.

Watch a video preview of the two tools here.

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