Deforestation Tracked Through Real-Time Satellite


Google has developed a map, much like Google Earth, to help track deforestation in real-time with the help of its satellites. This technology will help anyone observe the effects of deforestation on a much larger scale. It will also help the users view the pattern of deforestation in an area over a period of time.

Deforestation has been a real source of concern over the past few years. Numerous forests have been cut down to obtain wood from the trees. The wood is then either used for lumber or utilized for making furniture. This not just turns a once beautiful and serene area into a barren wasteland but also destroys the natural habit of countless living species that call the forest their home. Many are either driven away or killed in the process. This often leads to a decline in the overall population of those species and has been attributed as one of the key factors that leads to species endangerment.

Deforestation is more common in areas where government restraint is rather limited or absent altogether. With no fear of pressure groups or activists, trees are cut down in the thousands and by the time anyone finds out it is often too late. Such circumstances urged government agencies interested in tracking deforestation to come up with a way to possibly track deforestation throughout the world. Much like NASA’s satellites record and transmit live data, this technology will observe, record and track deforestation in real-time for everyone to observe.

The technology will be called Global Forest Watch and is a collaboration between Google, World Resource Institute and 40 other organizations. The map would be a tool which individuals, local governments and even entire communities can use to keep themselves updated regarding the current conditions of forests throughout the world. The user interface would be quite simple making it easier to observe the data. The maps are specially designed to give added detail and even display how the forests have changed over the years for a particular area.

The technology will rely on Google’s mapping resources and feeds from various other scientific sources. Being connected to other sources would help the system automatically update itself if any changes occur. For example connecting to NASA’s forest fire alert would notify the system in case a fire occurs which would then automatically be updated on the screen for the users to see. 

There will however be a few obstacles Google would have to overcome in order to create a fully functional forest map. Tropical forests are most of the time covered by thick layers of clouds. This would make accurate mapping of the forests impossible and will only yield incomplete results. A possible solution to the problem is to use continuous surveillance through the satellites. Much like what NASA does where their satellites circle the Earth at least 2-3 times a day.

Developers of the technology hope that this will attract attention towards caring for the forest. Knowing what is happening around the world and how the forests are vanishing one after the other might cause some to spring to action and work towards preventing it. Google’s real-time satellite tracker would also tell its users which person or company is directly responsible for deforestation further ultimately identifying the possible threats to nature.

By Hammad Ali