The Global Forest Watch (GFW) collects crowdsouced and geographical data to track envornmental degradation, particularly deforestation, around the world. Its ArcGIS Online portal is an analytical tool that allows users to use this forest data in a GIS cloud environment. ArcGIS Online resources include thousands of authoritative datasets, references, and thematic maps about hundreds of topics. Users can also contribute to GFW by sharing data and stories from the ground via GFW’s crowdsourcing tools, blogs, and discussion groups. Special “apps” provide detailed information for companies that wish to reduce the risk of deforestation in their supply chains, users who want to monitor fires across Southeast Asia, and more.
Data on Global Forest Watch come from a variety of sources, including governments, NGOs, academia, and industry. To acquire new data, they research and incorporate available open data, form partnerships to move data into the public domain, and fund the creation of datasets to fill key gaps in their database. Generally, the process begins with a conversation between GFW and the data provider about which data sets will be visualized. The data provider will then be asked to sign a Data Sharing Agreement, which gives Global Forest Watch permission to visualize the data on the website and (in most cases) make the data downloadable.
In its Data Playbook, Global Forest Watch lists three central intended impacts: 1. Improve the accuracy or timeliness of forest change detection. 2. Illustrate drivers of change, including land use and industrial activity. Priority sectors include logging, mining, agricultural commodities (palm oil, beef, soy, etc.), and infrastructure. 3. Indicate the health or status of remaining forests, such as biodiversity, landscape connectivity, or carbon.” The ultimate goal is to allow a wide array of stakeholders to provide data and track deforectation, in an effort to campaign for change and more sustainable environemntal practices.