Reducing deforestation to mitigate climate change necessitates monitoring of deforestation activity. However, while freely available deforestation alerts on forest loss are available, the effect of these alerts and the presence of subscribers in a particular area is unclear. Here, we show that subscriptions to alerts in 22 tropical countries decrease the probability of deforestation in Africa by 18% relative to the average 2011–2016 levels. There is no effect on other continents, and the availability of alerts does not significantly change deforestation outcomes. This decrease in Africa is higher in protected areas and concessions, suggesting that alerts either increased capacity to enforce existing deforestation policy or induced the development of more effective anti-deforestation policies. Calculated using the social cost of carbon for avoided deforestation in Africa, we estimate the alert system’s value to be between US$149 million and US$696 million.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to the entire Nature family of 50+ journals
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Datasets analysed for this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
The codes used to generate the figures and tables are available via Zenodo29.
Baccini, A. et al. Estimated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation improved by carbon-density maps. Nat. Clim. Change 2, 182–185 (2012).
Busch, J. et al. Potential for low-cost carbon dioxide removal through tropical reforestation. Nat. Clim. Change 9, 463–466 (2019).
Sims, K. R. Conservation and development: evidence from Thai protected areas. J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 60, 94–114 (2010).
Alix-Garcia, J. M., Shapiro, E. N. & Sims, K. R. E. Forest conservation and slippage: evidence from Mexico’s national payments for ecosystem services program. Land Econ. 88, 613–638 (2012).
Gibbs, H. K. et al. Brazil’s soy moratorium. Science 347, 377–378 (2015).
Romijn, E. et al. Assessing change in national forest monitoring capacities of 99 tropical countries. For. Ecol. Manag. 352, 109–123 (2015).
Hansen, M. C. et al. Humid tropical forest disturbance alerts using Landsat data. Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 34008 (2016).
Assunção, J., Gandour, C. & Rocha, R. DETERring Deforestation in the Amazon: Environmental Monitoring and Law Enforcement (Climate Policy Initiative, 2017).
Hansen, M. C. et al. High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science 342, 850–854 (2013).
Gibbs, H. K., Brown, S., Niles, J. O. & Foley, J. A. Monitoring and estimating tropical forest carbon stocks: making REDD a reality. Environ. Res. Lett. 2, 045023 (2007).
Howard, P. & Sylvan, D. Expert Consensus on the Economics of Climate Change (Institute for Policy Integrity, New York University School of Law, 2015); https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/expertconsensusreport.pdf
Bulletin d’Alertes GLAD du 1er Trimestre de 2018 (Republique du Cameroun, 2018); http://wri-sites.s3.amazonaws.com/forest-atlas.org/cmr.forest-atlas.org/resources/bulletins/Bulletin%20suivi%20du%20couvert%20forestier%201%C3%A8me%20Trimestre.pdf
Palm Oil Progress Report 2017 (PepsiCo, 2017); https://perma.cc/DXY2-XSKL
Palm Oil Progress Update (Cargill, 2015).
Vargas, C., Montalban, J. & Leon, A. A. Early warning tropical forest loss alerts in Peru using Landsat. Environ. Res. Commun. 1, 121002 (2019).
Finer, M. et al. Combating deforestation: from satellite to intervention. Science 360, 1303–1305 (2018).
Imbens, G. W. & Wooldridge, J. M. Recent developments in the econometrics of program evaluation. J. Econ. Lit. 47, 5–86 (2009).
Lohr, S. Sampling: Design and Analysis 2nd edn (Cengage Learning, 2010).
Margono, B. A., Potapov, P. V., Turubanova, S., Stolle, F. & Hansen, M. C. Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 730–735 (2014).
Bwangoy, J.-R. B., Hansen, M. C., Roy, D. P., Grandi, G. D. & Justice, C. O. Remote sensing of environment wetland mapping in the Congo Basin using optical and radar remotely sensed data and derived topographical indices. Remote Sens. Environ. 114, 73–86 (2010).
Global Wetlands Map (Center for International Forestry Research, 2017); https://doi.org/10.17528/cifor/006412
Land Surface Temperature [DAY] (1 MONTH - TERRA/MODIS) (NEO, 2020); https://neo.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/view.php?datasetId=MOD_LSTD_M
CHIRPS: Rainfall Estimates from Rain Gauge and Satellite Observations (CHIRPS, 2019); https://www.chc.ucsb.edu/data/chirps
GHSL - Global Human Settlement Layer (European Commission, 2019); https://ghsl.jrc.ec.europa.eu
NGA’s World Port Index (NGA, 2017); https://services2.arcgis.com/jUpNdisbWqRpMo35/arcgis/rest/services/WPI_Ports2017/FeatureServer
GEOFABRIK (Geofabrik, 2019); https://www.geofabrik.de/data/download.html
GADM data (GADM, 2018); https://gadm.org/data.html
World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) (IUCN and UNEP-WCMC, 2016); https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/our-work/quality-and-effectiveness/world-database-protected-areas-wdpa
Moffette, F., Alix-Garcia, J., Shea, K. & H. Pickens, A. The Impact of Near-real-time Deforestation Alerts Across the Tropics (Zenodo, 2020); https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4054099
We thank S. Jamilla, E. Goldman and I. Collins for creating the database. We thank K. Chomitz, T. Coger, J. Engelmann, N. Harris, H. Nembhard, F. Stolle and N. Ullery and participants at the Environmental and Resources Seminar of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the Applied Economics Seminar at Oregon State University for comments. We acknowledge funding from the World Resources Institute; the organization had no input into the study design nor impact on the presentation of the results.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Juliano Assunção, Johannes Reiche and Juan Robalino for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplement A GLAD availability (including summary statistics, supplementary estimation results, Tables A1–A11 and Figs. A1 and A2), Supplement B Subscriptions (including description of subscription classification, supplementary estimation results, and Tables B1–B22 and Figs. B1–B3) and Supplement C Review of other alert systems.
About this article
Cite this article
Moffette, F., Alix-Garcia, J., Shea, K. et al. The impact of near-real-time deforestation alerts across the tropics. Nat. Clim. Chang. 11, 172–178 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-00956-w
Rapid remote monitoring reveals spatial and temporal hotspots of carbon loss in Africa’s rainforests
Communications Earth & Environment (2022)
Nature Ecology & Evolution (2021)