$1 Million NASA Grant Funds Further Development of Firecast, Program Also Expands to Colombia
Sydney/Arlington, Va. USA (November 15, 2014) – At the World Parks Congress this week, Conservation International (CI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced a collaboration to expand the Amazonia fire risk forecasting component of the innovative satellite-based system Firecast to Indonesia. It will provide a forest flammability risk index for Indonesia through the Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW-Fires) platform.
GFW-Fires is an online platform for monitoring and responding to forest and land fires in the ASEAN region using near real-time information. GFW-Fires can empower people to better combat harmful fires before they burn out of control and hold accountable those who may have burned forests illegally. The collaboration will include technical collaboration between CI and WRI on expanding the forest flammability risk methods in Indonesia, as well as sharing the Firecast data on Global Forest Watch Fires, and cooperation on outreach with the Indonesian government, businesses, and civil society.
"Rates of deforestation in Indonesia have now surpassed those of the Brazilian Amazon," said Karyn Tabor, Firecast principle investigator and director of early warning systems and ecosystem analyses in the Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans at Conservation International. "Reducing emissions and habitat degradation from fires in Indonesia is key to not only achieving national and global emissions targets but also preventing the smoke and haze that routinely ignite public health crises in Indonesia and neighboring countries.
Tabor continued, "This partnership with WRI will bring the fire risk forecasting tool already in operation in the Amazon to Indonesia aimed in preventing many undesired fires and unnecessary emissions. The on-the-ground impact and outreach that these two International organizations will amplify the awareness and use of near real-time monitoring and alert systems for anyone, whether it be national government or a local community, to meet their conservation goals."
An innovative early warning system, Firecast packages intelligence from NASA satellites in near real-time and delivers it to the people responsible for making the day-to-day conservation decisions, preventing the destructive effects of fires on natural habitat and human well-being. Firecast can also be used as a forecasting tool. It does this by using satellite-derived weather conditions to make predictions for where fires are likely to break out or spread. Daily and seasonal fire risk forecasts provide valuable information to decision-makers to prevent ignition and spread of fires during elevated fire weather conditions.
Data is sent via daily, customized alerts to fire and forest service departments, conservation organizations, park rangers and local residents who sign up to receive the free alerts. They then use the information for various activities, including policing and enforcement of illegal activities and land-use management and implementing national polices for sustainable development.
The collaboration also involves joint engagement with the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry, Indonesia's REDD+ agency (BP REDD+), and Disaster Management Agency to communicate the value of the forest flammability risk product and how it can complement Indonesia's existing systems. The long-term vision includes further collaboration on near real-time monitoring tools to utilize the latest satellite-based monitoring products to support national and regional governments in achieving conservation targets.
"Illegal forest and peat fires are an urgent environmental, economic, and human health challenge in Indonesia," said Nigel Sizer, global director for the World Resources Institute forests program. "Last March, haze from fires caused respiratory illness in nearly 50,000 people in Indonesia. The government has already taken steps to tackle the problem, establishing a situation room to track fires using real-time data. Firecast helps us move from fire response to fire prevention. Global Forest Watch Fires will help make this information widely accessible."
This collaboration comes on the heels of a US$ 1 million grant to CI in September from NASA's Applied Sciences Program to continue development and outreach for Firecast. It will allow for enhancement of the user interface, provision of new satellite-derived products and local workshops and training sessions to build in-country capacity in using early warning systems to preserve valuable natural areas.
"Firecast builds on the legacy of NASA Earth Science support in applying satellite observations and models to understand forest fire risk in remote communities” said -Lawrence Friedl, Director NASA Applied Sciences Program, Earth Science Division. “The global presence of Conservation International allows for the unique ability to support local communities, governments, and conservation organizations to recognize imminent fire risk and quickly respond to fire disaster.”
This fall, Firecast also expanded its coverage to Colombia in coordination with the USAID funded Forest Carbon, Communities, and Markets project to develop technical methods and training for Measuring Reporting and Verification (MRV) of REDD+ projects. Firecast will be used to as cost-effective method for monitoring REDD+ sites in Colombia and CI is working with the Colombian government Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) to help develop a national monitoring system that informs sustainable development planning and national policy initiatives.
The dissemination of satellite-based evidence of wildfires and elevated fire risk conditions is valuable to government, industry and civil society to support improved natural resource management," Tabor said. "They enable governments, communities, and local response teams to monitor and alert to illegal forest activities, warn of high fire risk conditions, and enforce land management policies with the goal of preserving natural ecosystem that are critical to human well-being."
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Learn more at: http://firecast.conservation.org/
For more information, contact:
Emmeline Johansen, Regional Communications Consultant, Conservation International
Kevin Connor, Media Manager Conservation International
About Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity for the well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area and employs more than 800 staff in 30 countries on six continents, and has nearly 1,000 partners around the world. For more information, please visit our website at: www.conservation.org/ or visit us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.