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Please see the below article from EPIC Investment Partners detailing the impact AI has had on the deforestation of the Amazon.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, in an area so vast it encompasses nine countries, including Colombia and Brazil. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, it covers around 650 million hectares. The Amazon’s importance to the overall health of the planet can’t be understated.

Yet, deforestation remains an urgent problem. According to research by Amazon Conservation, nearly 2 million hectares of the Amazon were subject to deforestation in 2022, a 21 percent increase from the year before. If deforestation remains unchecked, it could permanently skew the planet’s ecosystem, according to international environmental experts.

So how does anyone tackle a problem so large and complex as trying to reverse deforestation on a major scale? Enter AI. Thanks to the power of data science, machine learning, and cloud technology, experts are developing innovative, collaborative programs that will make recognising deforestation patterns easier and provide tools for policymakers to use that could stop deforestation in its tracks.

A collaborative project called Guacamaya, led by organizations such as the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Colombia, Universidad de los Andes, and Microsoft AI for Good Lab, is using AI technology to monitor deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. The project employs a three-pronged approach that combines satellite data, camera traps, and bioacoustics analysis to map the amazon. The databases are stored in the cloud and the group is using computational power of Microsoft Azure to design and train the models.

The first phase begins from high above, as satellites from the technology partner Planet Labs PBC provide daily high-resolution images of every single point on Earth. Project Guacamaya is developing AI models to quickly track these images over time, spotlighting areas of illegal deforestation or mining, for which a telltale sign is the presence of unauthorised roads. These models are 80-90% accurate and authorities can be alerted in minutes rather than weeks.

The second phase is AI camera recognition software to track the movement of wildlife through the rainforest. MegaDetector is an AI technology that streamlines a process that used to take days into minutes by identifying and classifying the findings. The last is through sound. Using bioacoustics, researchers can capture sound from the Amazon and use an audio AI model to classify bird and animal species. If a species suddenly appears in a different environment, it could be a sign of deforestation elsewhere.

The result of this project and others in the region is a live, interactive map of the Amazon, highlighting the high-risk areas. The hope is all of the region’s major leaders will come to the table to help build and act on the information for the good of the rainforest.

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Alex Clare