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The impact of near-real-time deforestation alerts across the tropics

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1: Timeline of GLAD rollout and study region.
Fig. 2: Impact of GLAD availability on deforestation.
Fig. 3: Spatial distribution and number of subscriptions.
Fig. 4: Impact of GLAD subscriptions on deforestation.
Fig. 5: Estimates of GLAD subscriptions in concessions and protected areas on deforestation.

Data availability

Datasets analysed for this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Code availability

The codes used to generate the figures and tables are available via Zenodo29.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Contributions

F.M. and J.A.-G designed research, performed econometric analyses and led the writing. K.S. managed the data compilation and contributed to the writing. A.H.P contributed to the database.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fanny Moffette.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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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.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

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.

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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

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