With growing emphasis on forest conservation and restoration as a key component in the fight against climate change, real-time information on vegetation cover changes is essential. Terra-i, a tool developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), already allows specialists and governments to monitor land-use change across the tropics. An open-access user manual published in July now lets anyone harness this powerful tool to keep tabs on forest loss in the tropics.
Terra-i maps deforestation and generates data for a range of applications, including forest carbon capture projects such as REDD+, and improved management of protected areas from large swaths of forest to micro watersheds. The Terra-i system is currently used by governments in Peru, Colombia, Honduras, and Vietnam, but can generate data on tropical land cover anywhere in the tropics in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
"Terra-i is already transforming the way governments monitor forest cover and loss," said Louis Reymondin, Digitally Inclusive Agriculture program co-leader and Terra-i project leader at CIAT and developer of the technology. "Now, this user manual will allow nongovernmental organizations, citizen scientists and general researchers to do the same."
Terra-i is a project by CIAT's Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) and Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes (ASL) research areas. The manual, called Near real-time monitoring system for the detection of vegetation loss in the tropics, was prepared within the framework of an inter-institutional cooperation agreement between the Peruvian Ministry of Environment (MINAM) and CIAT. It was first published in Spanish for training sessions to implement an early warning system in Peru. Likewise, the training material has been used to build capacity among technicians in Colombia and Honduras, and other stakeholders interested in forest monitoring.
The manual is freely available for download, and is targeted at technicians involved in mapping deforestation and land-use change. The Terra-i tool enables stakeholders to use the data at different levels to take action in natural resource management and build collaborations between national and local institutions for protecting and conserving ecosystems, potentially enhancing governance at national and subnational scales.
The Terra-i manual provides instructions to use the system from the software installation to the mapping of vegetation loss every 16 days and generation of statistical analysis of the rate of land-cover change. It also includes a detailed methodology and codes used by CIAT researchers for monthly updating the early warnings on land-cover change in the tropics.
Terra-i is a monitoring system that provides users with analysis of MODIS (NVDI) and TRMM (rainfall) images that forecast changes due to human activity, in near real-time, at a 250-meter resolution. It was first developed and rolled out in Latin America in 2012, and then made available to Asia, Africa, and Oceania in 2016. Today, a map of vegetation loss is generated every 16 days and kept on record together with data from January 2004 until today, at pan-tropical level. Terra-i can be downloaded at http://www.
"The manual is an important guide to help the users who have shown interest in the system to understand, in an easy, clear manner, how it operates and the processes carried out to issue warnings. Moreover, it is useful to clear up any doubts that may arise when processing information. For our team, it is important as well to have a manual to help us standardize the processes we carry out on a regular basis," said Jhon Jairo Tello Dagua, systems analyst at CIAT.
Terra-i was developed in 2006 by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (HEIG-VD), and King's College London (KCL), with financial support from TNC, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and Global Forest Watch (GFW). The Terra-i user manual was prepared under the Sustainable Amazonian Landscapes (SAL) project, which is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety supports this initiative based on a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.