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How to select monitoring tools for deforestation and conversion

A range of tools and platforms are available to monitor deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and other land use changes. These tools offer different capabilities and scopes. To identify the most appropriate tools for specific contexts, your company should consider the following:

  • Resolution: Some tools provide data at 10- or 30-metre resolution, while others are coarser. Companies should select tools that provide a level of resolution suited to the size of production units and the level of traceability in their supply chain. For instance, companies generally need higher resolution to monitor smallholder agriculture than land use change from large-scale plantation development.
  • Geographic location: Some tools provide global coverage while others are limited to particular regions but may be more accurate for these contexts. Companies should consider applying context-specific tools where they are available.
  • Ecosystem type: Some tools are designed to assess only forest loss while others include data on non-forest ecosystems. Companies should select tools appropriate for the ecosystems being monitored.
  • Type of land cover change: Monitoring large-scale clearance of forest for row crops is relatively straightforward, and many effective tools are available. More specialised tools are often needed to monitor other types of conversion or degradation. These may include conversion of non-forest ecosystems, forest or ecosystem degradation, conversion of small or disconnected areas, or conversion to tree crops, tree plantations, or agroforestry systems. Under these scenarios, existing remote sensing tools are not always fully adequate and may need to be supplemented with bespoke technology or ground-based monitoring.
  • Frequency: Some tools provide near real-time data on forest loss while others provide annual data or less frequent updates. Annual frequency is usually sufficient to assess compliance of specific production units with no-deforestation or no-conversion commitments. When available, near real-time monitoring tools and alert systems may be the most effective to monitor and manage the risk of active deforestation and conversion in sourcing origins.
  • Recognition: Some tools are offered or recognised by governments or other key actors. Where available, use of these tools can help ensure that monitoring of no-deforestation and no-conversion aligns with applicable law or other compliance monitoring processes. In some cases, use of certain tools may be compulsory.

Tools to monitor deforestation and conversion in alignment with the Framework

The tools below are publicly available and may be used to monitor deforestation or conversion at the level of the production unit or sourcing area.

Many of these tools can be used in combination to address different monitoring needs across different components of company supply chains. Watch this short video for an example of integration of multiple monitoring tools.

For additional options, download a list of tools for monitoring production units, sourcing areas, and supply chains.

Risk assessment, traceability, and monitoring tools

Global Forest Watch Pro

Global Forest Watch is hosted by the World Resources Institute. It provides global tree cover and forest change data at 30-metre resolution, in combination with data on protected areas, peatlands, and other key landscape features.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) Pro is an online platform that enables companies to measure and manage deforestation risk in commodity supply chains. It draws upon the GFW data infrastructure. GFW Pro allows companies to securely upload the location of farms, processing facilities, or jurisdictions in their supply chains or investment portfolios. They can then analyse these locations in relation to forest change and land use data. Through GFW Pro, companies can assess deforestation risk, monitor historic and ongoing trends in deforestation, and access deforestation and fire alerts. GFW Pro allows users to carry out regionally specific analyses using a variety of indicators, along with forest change data, contextual layers, and satellite imagery.

GFW Pro continuously updates its platform as new data and improved analysis capabilities become available. Data on non-forest ecosystems and tree plantations are forthcoming.

Prodes

PRODES is a satellite monitoring program run by the Brazilian government. It was initially designed to monitor deforestation in the Legal Amazon. PRODES uses LANDSAT imagery, which has a 30-meter resolution. However, the minimum mapping unit is 6.25 hectares. The Brazilian government uses these data as the basis for official deforestation statistics and enforcement of forest regulations and policies.

PRODES has several features that make it fit-for-purpose in Brazil. It creates datasets using a combination of computer and human analysis. This provides more accurate identification of true deforestation. As with many other tools, PRODES data are updated annually. The annual monitoring cycle begins August 1, which aligns with typical agricultural clearing cycles. Finally, because PRODES is a government tool, its findings are likely to be more readily accepted in policy or legality discussions.

The coarse resolution of 6.25 hectares results in less error in identifying deforestation. However, it limits the detection of smaller patches of deforestation and therefore decreases PRODES’s alignment with AFi guidance. Companies may use PRODES for coarse- or medium-resolution monitoring of sourcing areas and production sites in alignment with the Framework. Where companies have reason to suspect forest loss, they should supplement PRODES with additional higher-resolution tools.

PRODES Cerrado has mapped deforestation and conversion of natural vegetation in the Cerrado with a minimum polygon size of one hectare. This tool has refined historical maps of deforestation in the Cerrado biome from 2000-2018. It also has annual maps of natural vegetation conversion in the Cerrado from 2013-2018. Companies may use PRODES Cerrado for coarse- or medium-resolution monitoring of sourcing areas and production sites in the Cerrado region. Where ecosystem conversion is suspected, companies should supplement PRODES Cerrado with higher-resolution and near real-time data tools, such as Mapbiomas (described below).

Mapbiomas

The Brazilian Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping Project (MapBiomas) uses the Google Earth Engine to produce annual maps and calculations of land use change across all of Brazil using satellite data. These maps have a 30-metre resolution. The tool also covers all parts of the Amazon (Mapbiomas Amazonia) and Chaco (Mapbiomas Chaco) biomes in surrounding countries.

The maps display land cover and land use change data, including for both forest and non-forest ecosystems. The maps also indicate Indigenous territories and conservation units.

Companies can use Mapbiomas for production unit or area-level monitoring of deforestation and ecosystem conversion at a 30-metre resolution. The tool generates a transition matrix, which details the different land use change activities identified on the maps. This allows for a more nuanced analysis of changes between primary and secondary forest and other land cover types. To use Mapbiomas data in alignment with the Accountability Framework, companies should consider both primary and secondary forest and native vegetation as natural ecosystems, as per the Framework’s definitions.

Trase

Trase is a product of Global Canopy and the Stockholm Environment Institute. It combines trade data with land-use change data, including data from GFW, PRODES, and other sources. With these data, Trase can assess the deforestation and conversion footprint or risk of commodity traders and financial institutions. The approach provides information on the exposure of commodity traders to deforestation and conversion activity at the sub-national scale, down to individual districts and municipalities. It also and connects specific production regions to global markets and trading companies. Trase has coverage of South American beef and soy, Indonesian palm oil, and West African cocoa among other commodities and geographies.

Trase can provide valuable data on deforestation or conversion exposure for companies that are unable to trace or control their entire supply chains to the production unit level. In these contexts, it enables companies to monitor and report deforestation risk at an area level, in alignment with the Accountability Framework’s Operational Guidance on Monitoring and Verification

Soy on Track and Beef on Track

Developed to monitor deforestation risk from soy and cattle in Brazil, the Soy on Track and Beef on Track tools each offer a unified and standardised protocol for monitoring, auditing, and reporting applicable to different actors in the supply chain.

Soy on Track provides standardised monitoring and auditing procedures for compliance with the Amazon Soy Moratorium, the Green Grains Protocol in Para, and voluntary deforestation-free commitments in the Cerrado.

Beef on Track offers monitoring, auditing, and reporting guidelines and templates for meatpackers. These resources have been approved by Brazil’s Public Prosecutor’s office and must be followed by meatpackers that have signed Beef on Track's cattle commitments in the Amazon.  

How to monitor human rights in alignment with the Framework 

Unlike for deforestation and conversion, use of remote sensing to monitor human rights impacts and risks is limited. Instead, companies should typically use a combination of area-level and site-level monitoring methods monitoring methods, as follows:

  • The risk of human rights violations is strongly linked to key contextual factors, many of which can be monitored at a national or subnational level. In some cases, these can be disaggregated by commodity sector. The AFi’s forthcoming list of risk assessment tools will include numerous tools to help companies identify contexts and conditions associated with human rights violations that may require prioritised action.
  • To assess compliance and address human rights and impacts at the production unit level, on-site methods are typically needed. For more information, see the Topic Summary on Monitoring and Verification as well as Section 2.1.2 and Annex 1 of the Operational Guidance on Monitoring and Verification.
  • For more information on monitoring related to workers’ rights, see the Operational Guidance on Workers’ Rights. Many of the implementation resources listed under type of worker’s right may also be used to support monitoring related to workers’ rights.
  • Company grievance mechanisms are an essential tool to detect and monitor human rights risks and violations. See Section 2 of the Operational Guidance on Remediation and Access to Remedy for more information about the establishment and operation of effective grievance mechanisms.
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