Google’s machine-learning tool is being used to detect and combat illegal deforestation
The news: Rainforest Connection, a San Francisco nonprofit, has developed a cheap, rigorous acoustic monitoring system made from modified cell phones and solar panels. An app on the so-called Guardian devices, which can be hidden in trees throughout forests, continuously listens for the telltale signs of illegal logging and animal poaching.
On March 21, the organization announced that it will be using Google’s TensorFlow, a free tool that makes it simpler for other companies and groups to develop machine-learning software (see “Google stakes its future on a piece of software”). Rainforest Connection says it will enable the organization to more accurately detect troubling sounds in the uploaded audio, such as chainsaws, vehicles, and gunshots.
Why does it matter? Deforestation reduces biodiversity, increases erosion, and promotes desertification. Felled trees also release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, accounting for around 10 percent of global emissions driving climate change, according to an earlier NASA study. Between 50 percent and 90 percent of all logging in tropical countries is done illegally, according to a 2012 report by the UN and Interpol.
The final word: “When fighting deforestation, every improvement can mean one more saved tree,” Rainforest Connection said in a blog post.
Do these heat waves mean climate change is happening faster than expected?
General warming predictions are still on track, but recent heat waves are a stress test for the modeling of extreme events.
This CRISPR pioneer wants to capture more carbon with crops
New research at Jennifer Doudna's institute aims to create faster-growing, carbon-hungry plants using the gene-editing tool.
The future of urban housing is energy-efficient refrigerators
Adapting old, energy-inefficient buildings is less sexy but far greener than many high-tech solutions.
Running Tide is facing scientist departures and growing concerns over seaweed sinking for carbon removal
The venture-backed startup believes kelp could be a powerful tool to combat climate change. But some scientists fear the ecological risks on large scales.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.