World Resources Institute: Digital Technology Paints Pictures Of World's Forest Under Threat

Feb 29, 2000, 00:00 ET from World Resources Institute

    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
     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, 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
     "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:

SOURCE World Resources Institute