Forests cover about 30% of the planet. The ecosystems they create play an essential role for life on earth. However deforestation is clearing earths forests on a massive scale. At the current rate of destruction the worlds rainforests could completely disappear within a hundred years.
In our market based society, conservation always considered as an externalities. Therefore it is always undervalued. We rarely consider the value of oxygen we breath or the carbon sequestered by forest. Making financing conservation efforts difficult.
Donations and philanthropies are usually the main source of conservation financing, but sometime we need to choose where to invest to get the highest value for money. That is where economic valuation of forest is important, and carbon storage is one of the environmental services provided by forests. There is already established an international carbon market, but it requires high technical expertise to valuate and verify the carbon. This capacity is usually not available in local communities safeguarding forest worldwide.
How can we prevent the destruction of forests?
Deforestation occurs in the most part from human activity. This activity is mainly driven by financial incentives. To dissuade inhabitants from destroying forests we would need to offer a financial incentive not to.
What it does
We built The Value of Forest (TheVoF) to enable local communities to objectively valuate the carbon stock value based on the available carbon market price. Our app built off of google earth engines seeks to offer a solution to help preserve forests. Our app allows a user to select a region on a map. Then it calculates the forest value based on its carbon stock using an algorithm we developed. The user would then be given an opportunity to donate to or be encouraged to visit the region to support the conservation of its forests.
How we built it
We built the app using the Google Earth Engine platform. WHRC has a global above ground biomass dataset, but it is only a onetime snapshot and with low spatial resolution. We developed a model which correlates the normalized difference in vegetation index with the WHRC dataset to come up with the regression formula. The model is hardcoded into the app to automate the carbon calculation.
Challenges we ran into
Finding the best dataset proved to be difficult. We spent a lot of time experimenting with all available global datasets to come up with the current model.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We managed to develop the model and create the automatization.
What we learned
Google Earth Engine
What's next for The Value of Forest
This is a proof of concept which connects community groups safeguarding forests with investors. In the future, we can add more interactive visualization on the dashboard for both groups. It can also be developed as an independent forest donation/investment platform. The data can also be used by philanthropies to monitor their investments.