World Resources Institute: Global Forest Watch Biodiversity Initiative

Forests provide habitat for over half the world’s terrestrial plant and animal species. However, there is wide variation in the biological value of forests around the world. A eucalyptus plantation, a logged natural forest, and an intact primary forest provide very different qualities of habitat for forest-dwelling species.

While Global Forest Watch (GFW) offers excellent data about the location of forests and forest change, it does not indicate the biological values of forests that are lost, gained, or remaining. Without such information, one cannot identify the highest priority areas for conservation action or understand the biodiversity impacts of forest loss. Full, global integration of biodiversity values into the GFW platform will add critical context to GFW’s near-real time deforestation alerts, making the platform more useful for local conservation planning and global biodiversity monitoring. 

GFW recently launched a partnership with leading biodiversity conservation organizations to tackle this problem, forming the Global Forest Watch Biodiversity initiative. The World Resources Institute (WRI), BirdLife International, IUCN, RESOLVE, and the UN Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) have collaborated on a project to produce two critically important outputs.

Supporting rapid response to emergent forest biodiversity threats, by developing a method to filter GFW’s weekly deforestation alerts according to biodiversity importance criteria. The GFW platform surfaces millions of deforestation alerts per week so prioritization is necessary. Additionally, it is critical to accommodate a diversity of potential user perspectives on the meaning of biodiversity “importance.” With this feature users will be able to select from a number of biodiversity filters – from Key Biodiversity Areas to Tiger Conservation Landscapes to Ecoregions of the World – and as well as a geographic area to receive only those alerts relevant to their work.

Enabling improved biodiversity monitoring and planning by developing two seamless and global data layers to monitor biodiversity change. The first will be a map of biodiversity responses to forest change using the PREDICTS database and the second will utilize species habitat ranges to create a map of biodiversity importance of forest cover and impacts of forest loss. These maps will also feed into the filtering system noted above, so a user could subscribe to the “most important” biodiversity areas in a certain geographic area.

Both of these products will be available for visualization and analysis on the map and also in the form of insights, which will include country statistics, tracking systems for global biodiversity targets and more.