According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the rate of deforestation in tropical countries remains “alarmingly high.” Deforestation, along with forest degradation, contributes to a host of local and global environmental problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and flooding. Unfortunately, the financial and human resources available to conserve tropical forests are quite limited, making it critically important that the resources deployed have the greatest possible “bang for the buck.”
To that end, with funding from NASA’s SERVIR program and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, RFF experts have developed two user-friendly, freely available web tools for supporting tropical forest conservation policy: the Forest Conservation Targeting Tool (FCTT) and the Forest Conservation Evaluation Tool FCET).
The tools are nontechnical and easy to use. Each has all requisite data, instructions, and metadata onboard. In addition, users can upload their own data to complement or replace the onboard data. Although the geographic scope of the tools is currently limited to Mexico, Central America, and the Dominican Republic, eventually it will be expanded to the global tropics.
The FCTT aims to help policymakers identify “hotspots” where planned forest conservation policies such as protected areas, payments for environmental services, and forest certification would generate the greatest conservation bang for the buck. It takes into account spatial variation in deforestation risk, conservation costs, and three forest ecosystem services (carbon storage, provision of biodiversity habitat, and provision of hydrological services), which users can weight as they please. The FCTT has already been used by The Nature Conservancy to help site conservation investments associated with the $30 million USAID Mexico REDD project, and by the Inter-American Development Bank to design multimillion dollar–improved cook stoves and forest restoration projects in Honduras.
The FCET evaluates the effectiveness of existing forest conservation policies (such as protected areas and payments for environmental services) in reducing deforestation. It uses high-resolution satellite-based Global Forest Watch data to measure deforestation. In addition, it uses statistical techniques to disentangle the effects of the siting of conservation policies (often in places with low preexisting deforestation pressure) and the effects of the policies themselves—a feature critical to generating credible, unbiased results. This tool makes best-practice data and methods easily accessible, which, until now, required familiarity with academic literature, statistical software, and GIS tools.
- RFF's Environment for Development Program
- Conservation ROI: Maximizing Returns on Environmental Conservation Investments
Citing the Web Tools
Blackman, A., L. Goff, J. Siikamäki and J. Chu. 2016. Forest Conservation Targeting Tool. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future. Available at: http://fc-targeting-tool.net
Blackman, A. and A. Egorenkov. 2016. Forest Conservation Evaluation Tool. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future. Available at: http://fc-evaluation-tool.net