Interactive Amazon map could help protect rainforest

13 January, 2010 by (comments)

A new online tool for studying land-use in the Amazon could help decision makers and researchers design incentive-based approaches for managing the region’s ecosystem services.

Map Server Screenshot

Developed by CIAT and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Amazon Initiative Interactive Map Server, is the first freely-available web-based application of its kind. By using satellite imagery and digital geographic information, it allows users to select specific areas of the Amazon and retrieve information about population density, biodiversity, land cover, and rates of forest loss.

Crucially, the application helps users to estimate the opportunity cost of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in a user- defined area, placing a monetary value on forest conservation. This can be used to calculate the cost of carbon offsetting.

The tool also calculates simulated future deforestation rates, biomass density and other factors related to sustainable development. This means it could be particularly useful for REDD project developers, by helping to locate pressure on forests and their causes, and the impact on carbon storage and other ecosystem services. These issues were central to REDD debates at last month’s COP15 United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Glenn Hyman, of CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) program and the World Bank-funded Amazon Initiativeis delighted by the release of the trial version of the application, which took scientists at CIAT, ICRAF, and other partner organizations six months to develop. “This is the first application that puts this type of analysis online in an easy-to-use format,” he said. “Its beauty is its simplicity. There is no software to download and you don’t have to be a GIS expert or economic modeler – all you need is a web browser.”According to Jan Borner, an agricultural economist for the Amazon Initiative: “During the last three years we have been involved in several studies dealing with the biophysical and socio-economic determinants of effective ecosystem service management in the Amazon for both governments and international donors. This tool provides access to the data and basic methodological approaches used during this work. We encourage user feedback from our online forum in order to better tailor the application to their needs.”
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Quickstart guide: upon entering the site, users can select one of four options. First-time users should read the Online Help before they get started. They can also visit the Amazon Initiative online forum discussing the tool. A third option allows users to provide feedback to the Amazon iInitiative and the developers of this application by filling out a short survey. Finally, users can dive straight in and get started using the application.

See also: YouTube video describing the application.
Contact: Glenn Hyman (g.hyman at cgiar.org)

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Filed Under: Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions