Sunday, June 4

Microphones and artificial intelligence against illegal logging in Europe

Installation of the microphones in the trees. / Rainforest Connection

30% of the world’s known tree species are currently threatened with extinction

Jose A. Gonzalez

The panda bear is in danger of extinction, the Iberian lynx is also in the same situation and, in addition, we can also categorize the common chimpanzee in this section. But, the risk of disappearance of species is not exclusive to animals, trees also suffer from this evil. The sea pineapple, an endemic plant of the Canary Islands, is about to disappear or the Sierra Nevada chamomile of which there are less than 2,000 copies left.

30% of the world’s known tree species are currently threatened with extinction, and at least 142 described species are officially considered extinct in the wild, according to the State of the World’s Trees report. Tree), prepared by the international scientific project Global Tree Assessment (GTA) and the organization Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) published last September.

30% of the world’s known tree species are currently threatened with extinction

The document reveals that one in five tree species are used directly by humans, either for food, fuel or wood. In addition, climate change is also having a clear negative impact on the conservation of thousands of tree species around the world.

The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is one of the great examples of uncontrolled felling of trees on the planet. However, much closer, a similar situation is taking place.

The stories of Bram Stoker, an Irish novelist, told that Count Dracula prowled the lush forests of the Carpathians in Romania. To the north of the country, there is one of the last virgin forests of the Old Continent. One of the lungs of Europe and also the heart of illegal logging.

According to various reports from Romanian NGOs, every year about 20 million cubic meters of wood are illegally cut in the country’s forests. However, there are data that multiply this figure by two and raise it to 40 million cubic meters extracted from forests.

Illegal felling of these trees is estimated at a loss of 1,000 million euros a year, but the bill is higher. Deforestation accounts for 17% of the total greenhouse gases produced on earth. This represents more than those produced by all means of transport together (13%), according to WWF data.

‘Echo’ watch recorders

observe and hearit is perhaps the best system to detect the state of health of an ecosystem. The first action is already carried out with the forest rangers who monitor everything that happens in these places.

But listening was still a pending task. It was until Topher White, an engineer by profession, was fascinated in 2011 by the sounds of nature in the forests of Borneo.

Illegal logging on this Asian island is threatening large ecosystems and endangering the lives of many animals, including the orangutan. In discovering him, White realized that by isolating the sounds of nature, the noises of chainsaws could be detected.

Thus was born the Rainforest Connection, an initiative that deploys silent “watchdogs” or spies through the trees to catch illegal logging. The project started with a smartphone attached to solar panels, now, almost a decade later, the project has improved.

Guardians, which was named this way, is present in dozens of forests around the planet and has the collaboration of companies that provide technology such as Huawei, Vodafone or Hitachi. A growth that has allowed these sounds recorded by the ‘echo’ recorders to be used in lawsuits and thus be able to pass sentences against illegal logging.

An update that changes the smartphone for microphones. “We install them high up in the trees and they are capable of capturing sounds between 3 and 5 kilometers away,” explains Jorge Vega, spokesman for Huawei Spain. “It captures sounds 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” adds Jesús López, spokesperson for Vodafone.

Installation on top of a tree. /

Rainforest Connection

A constant record of sounds powered by solar panels and that generates a huge amount of data and information. “Using a 5G connection, the information is sent to the cloud and there an algorithm detects if there are sounds of chainsaws,” explains Vega. “If detected, a geolocated alert is sent to rangers,” she adds.

“Through artificial intelligence we can detect sounds of chainsaws, if the algorithms discover it, an alert is sent to the forest ranger”

Jorge Vega

Huawei Spain spokesperson

For Rainforest Connection, if this anticipation begins to bear fruit and spread to the different countries where it operates, it could mean a before and after in actions to stop illegal practices of selling wood. “If you can protect the trees, you end up protecting everything else,” say those responsible for the Rainforest Connection.

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