Collect Earth Online.
Photo: ©FAO

New tool to track land-use changes

NASA and FAO have presented a new geospatial tool that makes it easier to track land-use and landscape changes. The new tool is free of charge and open to all.

A new open-access tool to track land-use and landscape changes was developed by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with support from the Google Earth Engine Team and the US Government's SilvaCarbon Program, FAO reported in December 2018.

Collect Earth Online (CEO) amplifies the power of FAO's Open Foris Collect Earth tool, which for the past few years has enabled the collection of data on land use, deforestation and for other purposes with the help of satellite imagery. CEO will become a central technology supporting FAO's global Remote Sensing Survey. The new platform is web-based, free of charge, open to all, requires no downloads or installation, and allows users to systematically inspect any location on the Earth with satellite data.

The next generation tool makes it easier to conduct surveys, collect samples and use crowdsourcing techniques. CEO can be accessed by simply clicking on a link and registering on the platform.

Collect Earth Online is now available through FAO's Open Foris. CEO uses innovative forest and land monitoring tools and technologies and allows reference data for forest and other landscape assessments to be produced quickly.  CEO will be integrated into SEPAL (System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring), FAO's powerful cloud-based platform, early in 2019, making it easier to link reference data directly to processing chains for generating accurate and transparent maps, data and statistics.

Monitoring the world's forests has become an increasingly challenging and rewarding task, as their importance for timber and fuel is now enriched by awareness of their role in carbon storage, pest control and agriculture. FAO's Locust Control Unit, for example, has used Open Foris tools to improve forecasts and control outbreaks.

Both FAO and NASA expect that with people using the tool further innovative uses will emerge - in disaster management and glacier monitoring, for example. Its open-source and cloud-based nature not only broadens access but is a buffer against data loss, a significant value when digital and computing resources are limited. This opens promising prospects for ventures ranging from trying to protect natural wildlife habitat to broader projects measuring links between biomass and poverty.


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