The Wageningen University & Research (WUR) RAdar for Detecting Deforestation (RADD) alert app is helping to stop illegal logging in African rainforests.
Although it looks like Google Maps, WUR’s RADD isn’t. It’s an alerting system for deforestation. It uses publicly available radar images gathered every six to twelve days by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite. If areas of rainforest disappear, a ‘deforestation alert’ is triggered and it is marked in red. This enables local enforcement agencies to intervene much more quickly and precisely to stop illegal logging.
WUR’s RADD alerting system covers the entire African rainforest, most of which lies within the Congo Basin. This includes the area along the Congo River, which meanders through countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. The Congo Basin is the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, after the Amazon. And it is home to countless plant and animal species, some of whom are endangered. But every year at least 800,000 hectares of forest disappear, equivalent to one-fifth of the Netherlands.
“Our alerting system is being used by the Global Forest Watch”, says Johannes Reiche, associate professor of Radar remote sensing. “They’ve been monitoring global deforestation for years and also have excellent partnerships with the governments of tropical countries, as well as with other organisations fighting against deforestation. These include NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF, but also local stakeholders such as the rangers who protect national parks. The Global Forest Watch app will soon give those rangers access to the RADD alerts too: they’ll be able to see on their mobile phone where areas are in the process of being logged, so they can intervene”.