World Resources Institute: Digital Technology Paints Pictures Of World's Forest Under Threat
WASHINGTON, Feb. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- A unique combination of satellite imagery, geographic information systems (GIS), mapping software, the Internet and on-the-ground observation is giving the general public a clearer picture of the threats to the world's forests. The picture is not pretty: the world's remaining frontier forests are rapidly being logged over and opened up for development. The maps and reports of Canada, Gabon and Cameroon were released today during the launch of Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute. "Two years ago, we documented that only a fifth of the world's historic forest cover remains as frontier forests or large tracts of intact forests. At the current rate of expansion, we estimated that another 40 percent would be lost in the next 10 to 20 years," said Dirk Bryant, director of Global Forest Watch. "It now looks like we have underestimated those threats in some places." The maps and reports reveal widespread logging in the forests of the Congo Basin, and extensive mining, energy and road construction projects in the forests of Canada. "For the first time, we are mapping out logging across the Congo Basin, a region that contains the world's second largest contiguous tropical forest after the Amazon," said Bryant. "Canada's intact forests are being opened up for large-scale exploitation, including those in the environmentally-sensitive far northern forests." The reports released by Global Forest Watch today are A First Look at Logging in Gabon, Canada's Forests at a Crossroads: An Assessment in the Year 2000 and An Overview of Logging in Cameroon. The reports and the maps are also available in the website, www.globalforestwatch.org. The website currently uses an interactive map server and the cutting-edge software that easily allows the integration of local data with satellite imagery. Global Forest Watch addresses the perennial problem of the lack of transparency and easy access to information. During the next 5 years, this international network will span 21 countries and cover 80 percent of the world's remaining frontier forests. Global Forest Watch combines on-the-ground knowledge with digital and satellite technology to provide accurate forest information to anyone with access to the Internet. "The key is the power of information," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute. "What Global Forest Watch does is put communities, people, activists, and wood consumers together and provide them with information about what is happening to the forests." Global Forest Watch identifies and promotes successful forest management practices, enables governments to better manage their forests, and provides local groups with the information they will need to participate in the management of their forests. WRI board chairman Bill Ruckelshaus said that Global Forest Watch would not have been possible a few years ago. "It is a reality now because of the growth of local citizen's groups, the expansion of the Internet and other digital technologies and the new partnerships being forged by businesses, governments and environmental groups." Global Forest Watch has received support from both environmental groups and industry. It currently has 75 partners in 7 countries. Software companies such as Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and ERDAS, and home furnishings company, IKEA, have given major donations to support Global Forest Watch. "We have committed that by Sept. 1, we will not use solid wood from natural intact forests. To be able to live up to this, we have to know where the natural intact forests are and which forests need protection," said Jan Kjellman, president of IKEA North America. IKEA is the world's largest home furnishings company with 156 stores in 28 countries. Through the donations of ESRI and ERDAS, Global Forest Watch partners will be using the latest software to document and map what has been observed in the field. "Global Forest Watch is a good model of how technology can be used to protect the environment," said Jack Dangermond, ESRI president. "Thanks to new technologies, we are better positioned to head off further threats to the world's remaining intact forests." The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a Washington, DC-based research center that provides objective information and practical proposals for change to foster environmentally sound and sustainable development. WRI works with institutions in more than 50 countries to bring the insights of scientific research, economic analyses and practical experience to political, business and non-governmental organizations around the world. For more information, visit WRI's website at: http://www.wri.org/wri/press
SOURCE World Resources Institute
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