Deforestation Image via Shutterstock

A collaboration between NASA researchers at Ames laboratory in California and the environmental news and watchdog site, Mongabay has created a tool that tracks global deforestation—the Global Forest Disturbance Alert system. The online system works by compiling information of the Earth’s surface collected by orbiting satellites. By doing so, it looks for signs of forest loss down to five square kilometers. The system hopes to highlight the 50,000 square miles of forest that are lost each year.

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The Global Forest Disturbance Alert System, also known as GloF-DAS, will provide environmentalists with the ability to pinpoint areas that are being deforested on a quarterly basis. The satellite data is collected by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and then developed at NASA Ames Research Center by the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA) ecosystem modeling team.

It is then compared to global vegetation index images, that were taken at the exact same time period each year in consecutive years. If it detects a change of more than 40% to an area of 5km x 5km, then it sends out an alert. Of course, seasonal variation has been taken into account in the product’s design.

“We hope the timeliness of these forest change observations will provide stakeholders in forest conservation more opportunities to make sustainable management decisions,” said Christopher Potter, Senior Research Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center.

The recently launched Indonesian version of the application hopes to help local correspondents investigate some deforestation hotspots identified in the country.  It is hoped GloF-DAS will improve transparency around forest use in Indonesia, which is experiencing high rates of deforestation due to mining, conversion for oil palm estates and pulp and paper plantations, and agriculture.

Click here to get GloF-DAS for free from Mongabay’s website.

+ Mongabay

via Fast Company

Images: Mongabay and glennhurowitz