What are the challenges to monitoring or deterring illegal logging?

We are interested in exploring what limitations are there in the enforcement of anti-logging - what prevents the detection of illegal loggers?

Have you seen any innovations or technological developments that have aided in monitoring or deterring illegal logging?

Share any ideas, links, articles, or projects that you have seen!

Some of the physical limitations that come to mind are:

  • The size and scale of the rainforest
  • Moving throughout the terrain
  • Knowing the best route to reach the illegal logging site, assuming you're aware of an active logging site
  • The volume and parsing through the amount of sounds
The last point about sound leads into one very interesting solution on the market that leverages sound to combat illegal logging: https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/23/rainforest-connection-enlists-machine-learning-to-listen-for-loggers-and-jaguars-in-the-amazon/

One of the things we learned in the old Future of Forests community was that methods for combatting illegal forest activities are often outdated.

Problems include:

  • The cost of maintaining such systems.
  • Inability to bypass natural obstacles, such as in the case of satellite imagery and clouds.
  • Lack of resources, which makes a meaningful use of the warnings from monitoring technologies difficult.
  • Inter-agency coordination problems, as agencies using these technologies are different from those who work on forestry governance or management.

Christi Hang of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) suggested the use of open-source data could help.

CIFOR itself is involved with a number of open-source projects, including the following:

  • [The Borneo Atlas](https://www.cifor.org/map/atlas/), which builds on 43 years of LANDSAT satellite imagery and show forests degraded over time by industrial logging and wildfires or converted to industrial palm oil or pulpwood plantations
  • [Global Wetlands Map](https://www.cifor.org/global-wetlands/), which covers the peatlands and wetlands of 146 countries in the tropic and subtropic
  • [International Database on REDD+ projects](http://www.reddprojectsdatabase.org/), a database tracking 467 projects and programs located in 57 countries then organizes the information in a format adapted to research purposes and global analyses

Thanks Nick! Our team will have to follow up with Christi Hang. We’ve heard this direction from some other forestry and conservation professionals.

I’m curious, what types and levels of data would be desired for this solution?

Alternatively, if we had real-time data for the entire Amazon, at the level of specificity that has been gathered by Dr. Asner’s team in the Peruvian Amazon, what next?

Link to article here: How a Scientist Mapped the Chemistry of the Entire Peruvian Amazon by Plane - The Atlantic

I agree on how critical the need for open-source data is. As we are digging into these issues further, two main challenges are emerging:

  1. How can any technological solution be real-time or near real-time?
  2. How can this data be used to deter illegal logging activities? or alternatively, what sort of open-source data on the rainforest can most strongly contribute to deter such illegal activities?

Satellite imaging and machine learning (AI) can now be used to automatically detect changes in canopy cover (logging) and the creation of roads in forests.
For example:

Staying Alert: How a New Landsat-Based Tool Spots Deforestation

Taken from one of my previous forest projects: a reading list that might be of interest to some in this community.

Besides satellite imaging, drones would be useful tool in monitoring illegal logging activity. They can be deployed with minimal risk to the operator; unlike boots on the ground efforts. Data would be real time. Similar to the techniques being used to curtail illegal poaching.

To my way of thinking, we have got the problem all wrong.
Instead of looking to curb illegal logging, we should ask why it is there and eliminate the reason thereof.
It will be more like demonetisation.
If we make logging, let alone illegal logging, un advantageous, why would one think of it.
As I said in my earlier comments, if we are able to replace timber with a cheaper and easily available material, the advantages of logging would come to a naught.
I am detailing this a little more in my comments on the second question.

I would add that politics and the “average person” play a big role here, so whatever technology is implemented should be accessible to regular people in that country in a way that will engage them politically to put pressure on local leaders and/or connect with each other around this issue they all care about.

So much of this sort of data tends to be too heady and scientific, it’s great for scientists and those who are versed in navigating maps and analytics, but if it’s too esoteric then it doesn’t really have the effect we’re looking for. Let’s say you can monitor illegal logging right down to the tree and exact location in real time, that would be amazing, but if those with the power to do anything about it are basically complicit then nothing will change. These deforestation mega-industries have A LOT of power, and only a significant and sustained groundswell of local people rising up to stop it will counteract that.

If the fancy tech can be understandable for average people, let’s say via an app that alerts them, gives them a way to contact their local leaders or share with friends, and helps create political momentum when it comes to voting the bad guys out power (ok yeah we’re assuming the democratic process is sound to some degree), now you’re connecting the DATA with the essential HUMANITY to create change-making action. Just my 2 cents.

In Brazil is still hard to identify which deforestation is legal or illegal. This information is not available (the federal government is working in joining the information that comes from the states but it is not clear if that will also bring spatial information).
This is a gap that depends a lot on political will to be solved.
Another gap that affects the possibility of effectively combating deforestation - including strenghtening the participation of local community in these strategies is the lack of internet access in the region.

Thank you @akb @COflyfisher @Ashok @Dianachaplin and @Adrixramos for your input so far here! We also have a new discussion on Mapping as well - any examples, thoughts, ideas you guys might have there would be awesome!

I would like to bring awareness to this conversation that deforestation doesn’t happen only for the timber . Trees are removed for agricultural reasons; cattle and sheep ranching, and crops, etc. When we think of solutions to deforestation, we need to think of solutions that address not only replacement materials for timber products, and we’ll need to look at how we address agriculture.

Here is a great article that shows the correlation between deforestation and political corruption, an important challenge to overcome: https://www.fern.org/news-resources/stronger-democracy-means-stronger-forests-955/. The article references the Amazon but focuses more on Africa, though the underlying issue is the same.

Hi all - we have a brand new discussion up for you all to look at! About agriculture alternatives, like Acai berry harvesting; click here to join the discussion! @Dianachaplin @COflyfisher @Adrixramos @Ashok @akb Any examples of similarly beneficial alternatives, or experiences/thoughts you’ve had would be helpful! Thank you all for your awesome contributions so far.

@Ashok you are right we need to understand the underlying reasons of deforestation, as @COflyfisher stated there are several reasons such agriculture, cattle ranching, mining (which is taking a big chunk of the forest in this very same minute I am writing), and the lack of political will. Technology is ok, but it is important to provide other alternatives to local dwellers. @Adrixramos mentioned that internet access is poor and it will be poor, satellites are not able to capture information because it is always cloudy. Deforestation and illegal logging are two different although related issues. Illegal logging means cutting the trees without permits from the authorities; while deforestation happens even with permits. Mining, palm, and cattle industries have legal permits (under concessions) to change land use.

Thank you @Dianachaplin @COflyfisher @Adrixramos @Ashok @akb @Sandra for your contributions so far! If you all have a moment, we do have a new discussion topic we’d love to have your feedback on, about biodiversity and technology: https://community.xprize.org/amazon-rainforest/discussion/236/what-emerging-technologies-can-be-used-to-help-us-more-quickly-identify-new-species Any input you might have there would be appreciated!

At the first go, many existing technologies come to mind.
Each one would add something to the knowledge.

  1. Voice recording and recognition (Comparing with the existing data)
  2. Face recognition (Comparing with the existing data)
  3. Doing above in winter and summer would segregate cold blooded and hot blooded species