In 2015, tens of thousands of individuals, hundreds of institutions and many governments used Global Forest Watch (GFW) tools and data to make better decisions about forest resources. This has the potential to improve the management of millions of hectares of forests, benefitting people and ecosystems around the world.

The Challenge

More than one billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, but despite efforts to combat deforestation, forest ecosystems are still under threat. Thirty percent of global forest cover has been cleared, while another 20 percent has been degraded, and most remaining forests have been fragmented. Governments, companies, and citizens wishing to manage remaining forests sustainably require timely, accessible, reliable data.

WRI’s Role

GFW, a partnership of over 70 organizations convened by WRI, is a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system that empowers people everywhere to better manage forests. Following GFW’s 2014 launch, WRI and partners have added higher-resolution satellite data and created targeted applications. For example, through GFW Commodities, a tool to help businesses address deforestation in their supply chains, GFW has mapped and assessed the deforestation risk of nearly 1,000 palm oil mill locations. Through GFW Fires, a tool for monitoring forest and land fires in Southeast Asia, GFW has combined satellite data and detailed maps of land cover and concessions to show where fires are occurring and who might be responsible.

The Impact

Governments using GFW to design or implement policy now manage over 400 million hectares of forest, an area more than twice the size of Mexico. For example, GFW helped inform the extension and strengthening of Indonesian’s moratorium on new forest concessions, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses GFW to calculate “deforestation taxes.” Private sector users of GFW include the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (a consortium of over 1,700 companies) and two of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies (APP and APRIL), which are using GFW Fires to support fire monitoring and response. Journalists have cited GFW’s experts and data in over 1,500 stories – for example, work by Mongabay which spurred enforcement action in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park. More than 700 organizations from over 90 countries have interacted with GFW through its Small Grants Fund, and 27 projects have received grants to use GFW on the ground. A recent independent evaluation surveyed nearly 500 GFW users with nearly 60 detailed interviews and confirmed GFW’s widespread use and impact.