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Home > Natural Resources > Land Management for Sustainable Communities and Natural Resources > Forestry Investments for Sustainable Land Management

Earth Engine by Google and Forestation Organizations Monitors Deforestation Hotspots

Deforestation disrupts natural systems for carbon sequestration, oxygen production and habitat for biodiversity, all essential for climate and global stability.

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The U.S, Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Britain pledged $3.5 billion over the next three years to protect rainforests. But how?

One of the most promising areas of forest preservation compromise has been an accord to compensate countries for preserving forests and other natural landscapes that play a crucial role in reducing emissions. Implementation of the agreement, known as Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, will require the ability to accurately track deforestation at a regional and global level.

Despite the widespread availability of global satellite imagery through products like Google Earth and Google Maps, it hasn't been easy for tropical nations to understand the state of their ecosystem, and to quantitatively monitor changes in forest coverage or other key indicators.

Google has announced a computational platform for global-scale analysis of satellite imagery: Earth Engine, powered by Google.

Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish.

Google's prototype demonstrates how Earth Engine makes all of this easier, by moving everything into the cloud. Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, scientists and policy makers can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.

The deforestation monitor prototype applications running on Earth Engine aren't yet available to the public, but you can see screen shots in our earlier blog post. has committed to providing their Earth Engine free to tropical countries to support their forest monitoring programs as one of many Earth Engine applications that will help enable scientists, policymakers, and the general public to better monitor and understand the Earth's ecosystems.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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