Together with World Resources Institute and forty other partners, Google has launched a tool that’ll allows for near real-time deforestation tracking across the world.

The site, called Global Forest Watch (GFW), is powered by some key Google technologies, including the engines behind Google Maps and Google Earth. On an interactive timeline it shows how forests across the world are being sacrificed either for commercial lumber or to make way for human habitats. More importantly, the data used for GFW can be updated monthly – and providing that level of up-to-date data in a publicly-accessible online tool is quite a feat.

Google’s says that, to date, statistics show between 2000 and 2012 500-million acres of forest have been lost, across the world. That’s a fifth of the total area of the United States or China. Sadly, only 0.8-million square kilometres have been regrown in the same time – a mere 40% of what’s been lost.

Providing deforestation data timeously means that action can be taken sooner. Seeing trees chopped down at ground level is one thing, but watching hectares of former forestland being lit up on a website will ring warning bells sooner, and help raise awareness. In the announcement post on its blog Google points out that the data from GFW will help provide scientists with more reliable information on the when, where, and why of deforestation.

 

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.