Citizen Cyberscience Centre Projects
Tropical forests provide habitat for most of the world’s known terrestrial plant and animal species. These ecosystems are under increasing threat worldwide.
During the last decades, several millions of hectares of humid tropical forest were lost each year. Despite the proliferation of new remote sensing technologies, information about the status of world’s forest is limited and unevenly distributed.
The immense task of protecting for future generations and adequate share of world’s remaining forest is outside the reach of traditional conservation strategies alone. It calls for collective action to complement existing initiatives.
We propose a new paradigm in conservationism based on the convergence of volunteer computing with free (or donated) catalogues of high-resolution Earth imagery.
This citizen science project aims at making possible to anyone (locals, volunteers, NGOs, governments, etc), anywhere in the world, to monitor selected patches of forest across the globe, almost in real-time, using a notebook, a tablet or a smart phone connected to the Internet.
The concepts of volunteer computing and volunteer thinking can be easily applied to the goals of the ForestWatchers project. The original screensaver of SETI@home is replaced by the latest remote sensing image of a forested area. It might be an indigenous reserve in the Amazon, a national forest in Borneo or a park in Queensland.
Images are then classified into forest or non-forest with a suitable automated classification algorithm and the accuracy of the resulting map can be further improved by volunteer observation on the Web, or even by addition information provided by volunteers in the field.
Errors and even fraud are naturally handled by the inherent redundancy of the system. For this, it is crucial to attract and retain a large number of volunteers. One hundred thousand volunteers watching over an area of 100,000 hectares each, with a redundancy factor of 20, can survey an area of 500 million hectares, roughly 40 to 50% of the estimated area of world’s tropical forests.