The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Release of the publication "Mapping Together: A Guide to Monitoring Forest and Landscape Restoration Using Collect Earth Mapathons"


09 February 2021, Rome - The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Resources Institute today have launched a new guide to help people use Open Foris Collect Earth, a crowdsourced image analysis platform, to monitor progress on forest and landscape restoration.

Entitled Mapping Together: A Guide to Monitoring Forest and Landscape Restoration Using Collect Earth Mapathons, the guide helps stakeholders monitor tree-cover and other indicators to target areas for intervention and assess progress against national and global restoration goals.

“Countries around the world are working towards targets under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Bonn Challenge to restore trees to the land in order to boost crop yields and local incomes, safeguard biodiversity, store planet-warming carbon, and protect soil and water quality,” said FAO Forestry Division Deputy Director, Tiina Vähänen.

“However, monitoring progress in the quest to restore landscapes can be difficult, as it is hard for satellites to see where saplings are growing, especially outside the forest, and relying on on-the-ground data collection can be costly and time-consuming.”

The new guide explains how coordinated group mapping events, known as ‘mapathons’, using Collect Earth can resolve these issues and allow users to more easily target and track progress on their restoration projects.

Mapathons in action

Collect Earth is an open-source data collection tool from the Open Foris initiative that pairs freely available, high-resolution satellite imagery with local knowledge. Using current and past satellite data, Collect Earth can establish what a landscape looked like before any restoration started so that progress can be mapped more clearly.

Collect Earth can host mapathons that help people answer critical questions on land use/land cover, tree spatial pattern, and related indicators. Mapathons involve local people and people familiar with a given landscape who can collect and interpret data, increasing accuracy. The resulting product – a living, evolving, real-time map – is then owned by local experts.

“By involving local people, mapathons also validate local understanding of what a restored landscape actually is,” said Christophe Besacier, FAO Forestry Officer, Forestry Division. “For example, a restored landscape in Niger’s dry farm belt may have fewer trees than a wetter region in Colombia, but both would be considered ‘restored’ according to local definitions.”

By leveraging very high resolution imagery and visual interpretation, Collect Earth and the mapathon approach are especially useful for collecting data on trees outside the forest, such as sparse tree cover on agricultural and pastoral landscapes and within cities and towns. 

Mapping together sets out the eight key steps involved in planning, conducting, and processing the data from a Collect Earth mapathon.

The guide also presents four case studies showing how countries have used and adapted Collect Earth to suit their specific contexts and needs, including:

  • In El Salvador, a mapathon was used to collect data on recent land use and tree cover changes to identify restoration opportunities in the watershed that supplies water to the capital city, San Salvador.
  • Ethiopian officials used Collect Earth to track tree growth in a local district to report on progress toward the national Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy.
  • In India, a mapathon for Sidhi District assessed where land could benefit from restoration, identifying where tree cover was less than 40 percent and could be increased.
  • In Rwanda, national and district experts used a Collect Earth mapathon to track progress toward their target of 30 percent forest cover and to measure deforestation over time in Gatsibo District.
  • Mapping Together builds on WRI and FAO's Road to Restoration, a guide that helps policymakers make evidence-based choices and set realistic goals for restoring landscapes.

To download the publication click here

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