Innovative technology: a game-changer for monitoring deforestation and land-use change

©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli23 February 2018, Rome — Deforestation is driven by human activity, but by employing innovative technologies to predict and monitor changes in land use, countries will be far better equipped to halt its spread, a panel session heard on Thursday during the final day of a major international conference on halting deforestation and increasing forest cover.

The session titled ‘Innovative technologies for land-use monitoring’ shared information and experiences on emerging technologies and their potential and utility in monitoring land-use change accurately. Countries that invest in and apply such tools more widely have achieved greater success in their programmes to increase reforestation, afforestation and forest restoration, the
session learned.

Part of the three-day international conference “Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area – from Aspiration to Action,” the session discussed innovations in satellite-based land-use monitoring as well as ground-based measurements. The panelists and participants considered the challenges to using such technologies and how they can be mainstreamed in country programming and development models, in order to make them readily and easily accessible. Ideas included facilitating the technologies’ diffusion by producing local language versions, and expanding knowledge about their availability.

A particular tool cited has a key role in forest monitoring and reporting, enabling policymakers and local communities to overcome the major handicap of inadequate internet connection or low computing power on local computers – a serious problem for rural development.  SEPAL (System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring), part of the Open Foris Initiative and the FAO-Google partnership, is the easy-to-use platform co-developed by FAO and Norway. SEPAL facilitates free access to Earth observation data and allows countries to overcome processing issues related to poor Internet connections, said FAO Forestry Officer Erik Lindquist.

The Rome conference, organized by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and hosted by FAO at its headquarters, brought together practitioners and experts from across sectors to present a broad range of perspectives and discuss possible solutions aimed at halting deforestation and increasing forest cover. Forests feature significantly in SDG 15 – Life on Land – where, through sustainable forest management, their role is pivotal in meeting target SDG 15.2 of halting deforestation by 2020. 

Visit the website of the ‘’Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area – from Aspiration to Action’’ international conference, 20 to 22 February 2018. The conference outcome will be uploaded on the website shortly.

last updated:  Friday, February 23, 2018