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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Technology for forests

By Zile Huma
April 03, 2024
Coniferous forest in Gallies Biosphere Reserve. — UNESCO
Coniferous forest in Gallies Biosphere Reserve. — UNESCO

The world celebrates International Forest Day every year on March 21 to highlight the role of forests in maintaining the ecosystem of our planet. The theme for this year’s Forest Day was ‘Forests and Innovation: New Solutions for a Better World’.

The theme focused on the use of technological solutions to safeguard our forests. Many innovative ideas can be implemented to ensure the healthy and accelerated growth of forest cover in our respective countries.

First, geomapping can be used to measure the exact forest cover in any particular area or country. Such information is crucial for countries to undergo long-term planning, set their targets, and secure financial support to implement projects based on preservation and increasing forest cover.

The use of drones with modern sensors can help identify forest areas being cut unlawfully or damaged by the timber mafia. Blockchain technology serves as a robust and transparent instrument for safeguarding forests. It involves generating digital certificates to monitor wood products from forest to end product. It can be useful in the detection of illegal logging and guaranteeing the use of legally sourced timber in production processes.

Evidence-based information can help law-enforcement agencies take action against the criminals involved and prevent deforestation. It can also provide information about the potential areas where new forests can be grown and offer suggestions for the digitization of the existing forests.

Second, the use of research and technological advancements can help make discoveries in medical sciences to cure many fatal diseases by using the flora and fauna of forests. According to the UN, “25 per cent of medicinal drugs used in developed countries are plant-based, while in developing countries, it can be as much as 80 per cent.” So with the advent of innovations every day, medical cures from forest life can be increased manifold and bring revolution in healthcare systems.

Third, forest fires have become a common phenomenon in many countries due to the extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change. Recent forest fires in Texas, US, blazed millions of acres of land. The use of an early warning system can help predict extreme weather conditions. During hot summers, predictions about heatwaves can warn administrative departments and emergency response services to prepare themselves for any emergency caused by forest fires. This can minimize loss and damage.

Fourth, genetic engineering can help grow trees that are climate resilient, produce more fruits, and multiply benefits. The technology can help grow forests cost-efficiently at every step, starting from sowing seeds or growing saplings.

Technology can better guide the success rate of growing forests in a particular area by giving information about moisture, water level, and soil ingredients. Through sensors, the growth of trees can be monitored. It can also help measure the amount of carbon stored in forests to allocate carbon credits to various countries. Techniques like drip irrigation can combat water scarcity and help grow trees in dry areas.

Fifth, mobile apps can be used by forest departments to get training materials and information about modern methods to conserve forests and update their activities.

Through smartphones, forest workers can become part of the global community and access data and information about the global projects of forest preservation and afforestation to learn the best practices. They can gain information about various national and international training activities to participate in and enhance their knowledge.

Sixth, sensors can detect the movement of wildlife and its impact on forest life. Similarly, the effects of forest activities on wildlife can also be detected. Such information can be useful to maintain a healthy ecosystem in forests. Many steps can be taken based on such information to develop futuristic strategies and vision.

Forests play an important role in providing a healthy ecosystem for life on our planet. However, forests are under the threat of vanishing, disturbing the balance of life. With the emergence of the technological race, the conservation of forests requires innovative solutions. The use of geomapping, sensors, drones, and big data can help increase forest cover.

The writer is a graduate of University of Oxford in Public Policy. She tweets/posts @zilehumma_1