Intact Forest Landscapes

An Intact Forest Landscape (IFL) is a seamless mosaic of forest and naturally treeless ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, which exhibit no remotely detected signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation and is large enough to maintain all native biological diversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species. IFLs have high conservation value and are critical for stabilizing terrestrial carbon storage, harboring biodiversity, regulating hydrological regimes, and providing other ecosystem functions.

The IFL concept and its technical definition were introduced to help create, implement, and monitor policies concerning the landscapes alteration and fragmentation at the regional-to-global levels. The essence of the IFL method is to use freely available medium spatial resolution satellite imagery to establish the boundaries of large undeveloped forest areas, so called Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL), and to use these boundaries as a baseline for forest degradation monitoring. Developed by a team of research and environmental organizations (University of Maryland, Greenpeace, World Resources Institute, and Transparent World), the IFL concept, mapping and monitoring algorithms have been used in forest degradation assessments, forestry certification, conservation policy improvement, and scientific research. The IFL method could be used for fast and cost-effective assessment and monitoring of forest degradation in the context of REDD+ mechanism and for responsible forest management certification process, e.g. according to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.

The first global IFL map was prepared in 2005-2006 under the leadership of Greenpeace, with contributions from: Biodiversity Conservation Center, International Socio-Ecological Union, and Transparent World (Russia), Luonto Liitto (Finnish Nature League), Forest Watch Indonesia, and Global Forest Watch, a network initiated by the World Resources Institute. The map showed IFL extent for year 2000 and enabled measuring of forest degradation (understood as a reduction in ecological integrity across a forest landscape) at the global, biome and national levels.

The global IFL map update was performed in 2014 by Greenpeace, The University of Maryland and Transparent World, with support from the World Resources Institute and WWF Russia. The new analysis shows extent of IFL by the end of year 2013, and their degradation since year 2000. The IFL map update based on the same data source and methodology as year 2000 mapping to ensure globally consistent dataset. The 13-years monitoring results revealed the alarming speed at which the world’s intact forests are being degraded. A sample-based analysis within IFL change area allowed us to identify proximate causes of IFL area loss, and to measure an effectiveness of IFL protection strategies (see Publications).

In the end of 2017 – early 2018, The University of Maryland, Wildlife Conservation Society, Greenpeace, and Transparent World completed the update of the global IFL map for the year 2016. The project was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Greenpeace. The update employed Landsat data and annual forest cover change products produced by the Global Land Analysis and Discover lab. We used the year 2016 latest available cloud-free Landsat observation composites for visual IFL change assessment. The update IFL layer represent situation as close as possible to the end for the year 2016 and beginning of the year 2017. The map can be used in the framework of Forest Stewardship Council responsible forest management certification that require the IFL extent for January 1, 2017.

The significance of the IFL analysis method and map lies in its power to enable and catalyze practical conservation planning and action with regard to large undeveloped forest landscapes. Protection of large natural forest landscapes is a highly important task to help fulfill different international strategic initiatives to protect forest biodiversity (CBD), to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (IGBP, REDD) and to stimulate sustainable forestry management practice use (FSC). The IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016 adopted a motion (Motion 048) that "encourages states, the private sector and international financial institutions to: a. avoid loss and degradation of primary forests, including intact forest landscapes; b. promote conservation of primary forests, including intact forest landscapes". Conservation of Intact Forest Landscapes is a task of great global significance. New and existing infrastructure development, timber harvesting, and mineral resources extraction project should avoid fragmentation of remaining IFLs. IFLs should be considered when existing protected area networks are revised and expanded. We also suggest that monitoring of forest intactness should be treated as an important aspect of national and global forest assessments.

All up-to-date IFL maps and IFL monitoring results are available online on this website in formats suitable for use in professional GIS as well as in freeware GIS browsers. The IFL map can be viewed on-line on our website as well as on Global Forest Watch platform and on the Global Forest Change web-map supported by the Google Earth Engine. On the Global Forest Change map you may overlay IFL with the latest forest cover loss dataset to identify recent changes, and with year 2000 forest cover to separate forest and non-forest ecosystems within IFL areas. The IFL Mapping Team is deeply grateful to Global Forest Watch and Google Earth Engine teams for their support with IFL visualization.

The IFL Mapping Team is continuing to improve the IFL base map and to provide periodically updates as new data, technologies, and more sophisticated sources of information appears. Please check News & Updates for information about the latest map release.

News & Updates

IFL 2000-2013-2016 monitoring results are available for download

Mapping Team

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