UN, Google cooperate to protect natural resources

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Google will collaborate to use high-resolution satellite data to manage the Earth’s natural resources. Their efforts will contribute to sustainable development.

Under the collaboration, resource managers and researchers in several countries will use satellite data to chart changing land uses of individual field-sized plots. This will improve their ability to assess a landscape’s carbon storage capacity or plan a country’s approach to greenhouse gas emissions, according to a UN press release.

FAO director general José Graziano da Silva says that Google and the UN agency are “ushering in an unprecedented level of environmental literacy.”

The initial focus will be in the forestry sector where Google’s geospatial data archives will make it possible for national experts to map and classify exercises in just a few hours, which previously would’ve taken weeks or months.

Mr. Graziano da Silva predicts that their collaboration could lead to innovation in issues ranging from dietary nutrition and pest control to water management and climate change. “The more people involved, the better it works,” he adds.

“Partnerships like this bring our products into actual use,” says Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth, Earth Engine and Earth Outreach. For instance, the FAO’s Locust Control Unit has used Earth Engine to improve forecasts and control of desert locust outbreaks.

While satellite imagery cannot replace on-the-ground knowledge and expertise, it can boost the efficiency, quality, transparency, credibility, timeliness and efficacy of data collection, explains the UN.

“We will be able to provide, every 10 days, forest assessments and in the near future food crop cover assessments, which are especially important in times of climate change,” says René Castro, FAO’s assistant deputy general for forestry.

 

Image credit: Doug Beckers, flickr/Creative Commons

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