Research Shows That GLAD Subscription Is Leading to Decreased Deforestation in Africa

The research covered 22 tropical countries, outlined in orange, across South America, Africa and Asia. Forest cover in 2010 is indicated in green. || FANNY MOFFETTE

Research led by Fanny Moffette, a postdoctoral researcher in applied economics at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has proven that deforestation in Africa is reducing due to a subscription by African institutions to GLAD alerts. 

GLAD is the Global Land Analysis and Discovery laboratory in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, investigating methods, causes and impacts of global land surface change.  Earth observation imagery are the primary data source used by GLAD. The GLAD system is available on the free and interactive interface, Global Forest Watch. 

Moffette’s research has proven that using the alert system has led to an 18% drop in deforestation among African countries where institutions subscribed to the alert. This happened within a two-year timeframe. Furthermore, the research has also shown that about USD149 million to USD696 million worth of carbon emission have been avoided by lowering deforestation in subscriber countries.

For the research, Moffette collaborated with Jennifer Alix-Garcia at Oregon State University, Katherine Shea at the World Resources Institute and Amy Pickens at the University of Maryland. They investigated if automated alerts helped countries achieve their objectives of reducing forest loss. 

The research was aided using GLAD, which was launched in 2016 to provide frequent, high-resolution alerts when detecting a drop in forest cover. Using the GLAD, subscription to the alert is made via Global Forest Watch, where interested governments and organisations monitor losses and make interventions. 

Speaking on their methodology, Moffette said “the first question was to look at whether there was any impact from having access to this free alert system. Then we were looking at the effect of users subscribing to this data to receive alerts for a specific area”. Moffette’s research covered deforestation across 22 tropical countries in South America, Africa and Asia, comparing the impact of using the alert across all regions. Africa had the highest positive response. However, this has been attributed to political instability and internal action’s role in using the alerts. “We think that we see an effect mainly in Africa due to two main reasons,” Moffette adds, “one is because GLAD added more to efforts in Africa than on other continents, in the sense that there was already some evidence of countries using monitoring systems in countries like Indonesia and Peru. And Colombia and Venezuela, which are a large part of our sample, had significant political unrest during this period.”

Speaking on the future of the research and the GLAD alert, Moffette mentions that “Now that we know subscribers of alerts can have an effect on deforestation, there’s potential ways in which our work can improve the training they receive and support their efforts”.

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