Google mapping application will help to save the world’s forests

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 7 years ago

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI),  Google, along with a group of 40 international partners, has launched the Global Forest Watch (GFW).

GFW is a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system that allows people and organizations to better monitor and manage forests. Using satellite technology, crowd sourcing and open data the project aims to provide real time, reliable information about the state of the world’s forests.

“Businesses, governments and communities desperately want better information about forests. Now, they have it,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, WRI. “Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”

According to Google and researchers at the University of Maryland, the world lost 2.3 million square kilometers of trees between 2000 and 2012, roughly equivalent to 50 soccer fields of forest every minute of every day over that time.

“We are honored to partner with WRI and power the Global Forest Watch platform with Google cloud technology, massive data and turbo-powered science. GFW is an ambitious vision, and yet it’s both timely and achievable given WRI’s knowledge of environmental science and policy, strong partnerships, and the high-performance Google cloud technology that we’re donating to this initiative,” said Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach and Earth Engine.

GFW is expected to have implications across industries and around the world. It, for example, allows financial institutions to better evaluate forest related risks with regard to companies they are considering investing in. It also allows commodity buyers to evaluate producers’ compliance with sustainability practices and legal standards and allows suppliers to better assess the economic impact of their products.

In addition, it will allow indigenous groups and environmentalists to get near real time data about deforestation, encroachment or illegal activity and to be able to provide photographic evidence to back their claims.

The organization behind Global Forest Watch also represents the sort of public-private partnership that has become popular with governments.

“Partnerships like Global Forest Watch that bring together governments, businesses and civil society and technological innovation are the kinds of solutions we need to reduce forest loss, alleviate poverty and promote sustainable economic growth,” said Administrator Rajiv Shah, U.S. Agency for International Development.

According to a press release from the World Resources Institute, “Global Forest Watch was created by the World Resources Institute with over 40 partners, including Google, Esri, University of Maryland, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Imazon, Center for Global Development, Observatoire Satellital des Forêts d’Afrique Centrale (OSFAC), Global Forest Watch Canada, ScanEx, Transparent World, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Vizzuality. Major companies have also provided early input, including Unilever and Nestle, and the wider Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Partnership. Core funders include the Norwegian Climate and Forests Initiative, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Global Environment Facility (GEF), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and the Tilia Fund.”

The new application is available to everyone at