Though satellite-based forest monitoring has improved substantially over the last decade, to the point where deforestation can now be detected on a weekly basis across the tropics, there has been little research into how this information is used for on-the-ground decision making. This paper summarizes the use cases and workflow for users of near-real-time deforestation alerts in Peru, explores the conditions that have enabled the widespread use of this information in the country, and the challenges that users of this data have faced.

Executive Summary

  • Near-real-time (NRT) deforestation monitoring allows forest managers and law enforcement personnel to respond quickly to illegal deforestation and is increasingly seen as a valuable tool for reducing deforestation. This study describes how NRT alert systems are being used to combat deforestation in Peru.
  • Many Peruvian government and civil society actors use NRT alerts to investigate illegal activities, manage protected areas (e.g., planning and control activities), assert land rights, enforce conservation agreements, and raise public awareness of illegal deforestation. NRT alerts provide a new source of information on deforestation and allow these institutions to monitor more efficiently larger areas of forest.
  • Early adoption of alerts by a few influential institutions and the high level of technical capacity across the country have facilitated wide use of the alerts in Peru. Those institutions making the most use of the alerts also cooperated with others and had strong internal protocols and clear jurisdiction in the areas in which they work.
  • Technical limitations of the NRT alerts, such as delays in detection due to cloud cover, have hampered their use in some situations, and there are opportunities for improvements both to the alert systems themselves and to their delivery. However, a bigger challenge to effective use of NRT alerts are governance issues—for example, limited funding for field visits for control actions, corruption, and lack of clarity about agency responsibilities.