Could AI help stop deforestation before it starts?

Trees behind construction area

WWF-Netherlands has collaborated with computer scientists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts to develop an advanced computer model to combat deforestation: Forest Foresight. Piloted in Borneo and Gabon, the tool can predict forest loss up to six months out with 80% accuracy.

Forest Foresight reviews data like topography, population density, and past forest cover. Once trained, it reads real-time satellite images, detects early deforestation predictors (such as expanding roads), and alerts local authorities to threats. In Gabon, Forest Foresight helped rangers detect and stop an illegal gold mine, protecting about 74 acres of forest.

The technology is just one example of how WWF partners with academia, other NGOs, and the private sector to develop AI conservation tools. WWF teams also use computer models to map out antipoaching patrols, track online wildlife trade, and evaluate restoration projects.

“Forest Foresight is a great example of using AI to get a better sense of environmental risks,” says David Thau, WWF’s global data and technology lead scientist. “I’m excited to see AI leveraged for conservation, including understanding how our actions improve conservation outcomes—or don’t.”

Explore More

World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

View all issues