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Artificial intelligence will monitor logging in Russian forests

17 september 2020
The first automatic forest cover monitoring system open to the public appeared in Russia. It allows to detect logging in valuable forests throughout the country promptly, and helps to respond to emerging violations.

The innovative system was developed on WWF-Russia’s request. Artificial intelligence receives, processes, and analyzes space monitoring data on all changes in forest cover in valuable forests. It separates areas where the forest cover has changed due to fires or infrastructure construction, and then automatically shows logging sites on the map. The service is integrated into hcvf.ru, launched by WWF-Russia as a tool for preserving high conservation value forests, and is freely available for all.

"The main advantage of the new monitoring system is that it is open to everyone. Any company, environmental NGO, or an eco-activist can use the service. The closeness and inaccessibility of reliable information about forests in Russia is one of the main problems of the forest sector, so the new public system is the first step towards its solution. We hope that it will bring public monitoring of the legality of logging in Russia to a new level," says Konstantin Kobyakov, WWF-Russia’s Forest Program expert on HCVF. "We are already using this data to track possible violations of the forest management regime in priority areas: existing and planned protected areas, areas under logging ban agreements with forest companies, forests along spawning rivers, and in the lease areas of FSC-certified companies."

Due to the fact that Russia has no single open database on all legal logging sites, the artificial intelligence will not be able to determine for itself whether the identified logging is legal or not. However, environmental organizations, eco-activists, and other stakeholders will be able to use the data fr om the new monitoring system for further self-verification. If in open sources, for example on hcvf.ru there is no lease agreement or other grounds for logging in the site wh ere the artificial intelligence detected logging, the expert can contact the forest management authorities, referring to the monitoring system data.

(c) Anatoly Kabanets / WWF-Russia

Experts note that innovative system has three undeniable advantages.

First of all, this is the first monitoring system in Russia designed specifically for the public, since the existing alternatives, such as the КEDR remote monitoring system previously developed by WWF-Russia, are only used by the forest management bodies and other specialists.

Secondly, the artificial intelligence promptly receives and processes data; the frequency of information update depends on the availability of satellite data and is on average 5-10 days.

Thirdly, the system is capable of detecting the very logging. For example, an alternative monitoring system developed by the University of Maryland updates data on changes in forest cover only once a year, and does not provide any information what exactly caused the changes: logging, fires, or infrastructure construction.

One of WWF-Russia's goals is to conserve valuable forests and their biological diversity. Therefore, WWF is working to improve control over the legality of logging in Russia and, in particular, contributes to the development of remote monitoring services. WWF-Russia hopes that the new service will be used by public organizations, responsible logging companies, and authorities, and will counteract illegal logging.

New automatic forest cover monitoring service was developed with the support by WWF-IKEA partnership on forests and WWF-Russia’s project "Forest Guards", dedicated to the conservation of intact forests in Russia.

Preview photo: (c) Anatoly Kabanets / WWF-Russia. Headline photo: (c) WWF-Russia

For additional information please contact
Forest Program communication projects coordinator
High Conservation Value Forest Projects Coordinator