How we can use technology to protect our rainforests

By now, we all know how important rainforests are to capturing carbon dioxide from the air and converting it into the oxygen we breathe – with the Amazon rainforest alone providing a fifth of the world’s oxygen.

However, as an important natural resource, these vast landscapes are also facing a variety of threats from human activity including deforestation, animal species eradication, and over farming. Left unprotected, the destruction of rainforests could have serious consequences for humans and animals across the planet. And while in the past it may not have been possible to accurately track those who were engaging in illicit activity when it comes to issues like overfarming and illegal logging, now, with technology, we are in a much better position to tackle these issues head on.

Using mobiles to detect illegal logging

It is estimated that deforestation accounts for around 15 percent of all carbon emissions annually, so being able to reduce this activity wherever it is taking place illegally is essential to help control the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and reduce the impact of global warming. This is no easy task. Indeed, the UN believes up to 90 percent of all logging in tropical forests is illegal and poor forest management allows this activity to continue to take place with relative ease. After all, it’s not easy to police such a vast space.

One company that is using the power of technology to counter this problem is San Francisco start-up, The Rainforest Connection. By converting old mobile phones into surveillance sensors, which are then attached to trees, remote teams can monitor and detect illegal logging by listening to certain sounds associated with the trees being cut down. Then, when the sounds are detected, the company sends the information to the local authorities in real time so that they can drive to the exact stop where the logging is taking place and put a stop to it.

Empowered with this information, companies wanting to protect the rainforest can also demonstrate to their government the extent of logging, helping them secure increased protections in the most vulnerable areas.

Introducing heat sensing drones to protect wildlife

The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illegal trade industry behind drugs, people smuggling, and counterfeiting. It has heavily depleted a number of animal populations across the world, bringing many on to the verge of extinction. 

To fight back against poachers and protect endangered animals, thermal infrared cameras are also proving useful in rainforests. Using small drones equipped with these cameras, wildlife officials are able to watch wild animals from afar and in the dark – without disturbing them. This is done either by remote drone management or by programming the drones to constantly hover over ‘points of interest’. When a poacher is spotted, the drone operators can radio their location to ground troops close by. 

The drones can also be used in search and rescue operations, for example in the case of forest fires to detect and save animals who might be trapped. The technology is so promising partly due to the fact it’s relatively cheap to implement, even on a large scale and that they work in challenging environments where animals are hidden by thick vegetation. 

Precision Agriculture to manage farming

Cattle ranching is another factor that contributes significantly to deforestation. As the global demand for meat rises, so does the amount of cattle farmed to produce beef. Acres of land in places like the Amazon are cut down each year to make space for these cattle to graze. In fact, it is estimated that animal agriculture has been the cause behind 60 percent of deforestation in the Amazon.

Technology can help make the land a farmer owns more productive by improving and increasing yields  per hectare – miminsing a farmer’s need to expand to new areas once the soil quality, for instance, has depleted. Companies like OKO Forests, have been able to achieve this by placing Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in the soil to measure the moisture, for instance, the amount of water used for irrigation can be considerably reduced. These types of regenerative agricultural practices will be essential as the world population continues to grow and we need to feed more people.  

So there you have it. Three ways technology is helping to protect our rainforests. If you’re interested in technology and conversation you may also find this post on how drones can save animals interesting.

If you have any questions or other technology queries, please leave a comment below or tweet us at @techtroublesho1.

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