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Using Maps to Save Sumatra

Sumatra is a rare and special place. It is the only place in the world where elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans coexist. Its forests are anchored deep in rich peat soils that lock away huge stocks of carbon.

This rare diversity is being lost to deforestation at an astounding rate. At the same time, the carbon stored in the soil is released when trees are removed, which contributes to climate change. As much as 50 percent of Sumatra’s forests have been destroyed since 1985, mostly by forest clearance for pulp, paper and palm oil production.

WWF—as a member of the coalition of Sumatran NGOs known as Eyes on the Forest—has teamed up with Google Earth Outreach to help stop this devastation. Together Google and Eyes on the Forest have created an interactive map that allows users to visualize what is really happening on the ground in the forests of Sumatra.

The first of its kind, this new map takes the amazing work that Eyes on the Forest has done over the last decade—collecting data on deforestation, species habitat, forested areas and carbon stores—and shares it with the world. The map gives a clear picture of the state of the forests in Sumatra, including alarming details on their disappearance over time.

By pinpointing threats such as deforestation and human-wildlife conflict, the map will help WWF and governments know exactly how and where to intervene to save the forest.

It will also allow consumers to make informed decisions on the products they buy as the map can show where a pulp and paper company is clear cutting trees. Imagine a buyer of paper products in the United States being able to track whether a supplier is adhering to sustainable logging practices just by creating a map that details exactly where the supplier is logging and if it overlaps with known tiger habitat.

“If people have the information, the forests of Sumatra will not just be saved, but we can restore them.” -Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund