ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE gear used to catch illegal loggers taking timber in Indonesia.

Pakan Rabaa, a village in West Sumatra, a lush province of volcanoes and hilly rainforests, had a problem with illegal loggers.

They were stealing valuable hardwood with impunity. At first, a group of local people put a fence across main road leading into forest, but It was flimsy and proved no barrier to the interlopers.

So residents asked a local environmental group for so-called camera traps to some other equipment that might help. In July, they got more than they expected : A treetop surveillance systems that uses recycled cellphones and artificial intelligence software to listen for rogue loggers and catch them in the act.

''A lot of people are now afraid to take things from the forests,'' Elvita Surianti, who lives in Pakan Rabaa, said days after a conservation technologist from San Francisco installed a dozen listening units by hoisting himself nearly 200 feet into the treetops..

''It's like the police are watching from above.''

The project, experts said, illustrates both the promise and peril of using artificial intelligence in the complex fight against deforestation.

''We know where the big illegal logging is happening. We can see that from satellite imagery,'' said Erik Maijaard, an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Queensland,, in Australia and an expert on forest and wildlife management in Indonesia.

''It's in the next steps - following up, apprehending people, building a case in court and so on - where things generally go wrong.''

The outcome matters for global warming.

Tropical deforestation is a major driver of climate change, accounting for about 8 percent of global emissions globally, according to World Resources Institute, and forest-based climate mitigation accounts for a quarter of planned emissions reductions through 2030 by countries that signed the Paris climate accord, the 2015 agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Audio-based artificial-intelligence applications are already used at sea to study whale behavior and ecological effects of offshore energy exploration, among other things.

But the tree-top monitoring systems are relatively new and a potentially important innovation in the fight against deforestation which typically relies on drones, camera traps - cameras that records images when set off by the movement of people or wildlife - and satellite images.

Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit group based in California and founded by Topher White, the technologist who installed the devices in Pakan Rabaa, has set up more than 200 of the treetop monitoring units in a dozen countries on three continents since 2016.

The honor and serving of the latest research on rainforests, illegal loggers and technology solutions, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Mike Ives.


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