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Hot off the press: WRI’s Land & Carbon Lab harnesses the data revolution to monitor the pulse of the planet’s land and its nature-based carbon

Humanity is putting unprecedented pressure on the world’s land, and barreling toward climate, biodiversity, and humanitarian crises. This pressure is driving increasing competition over finite land resources – a global land squeeze.

From the Frontier of Data to the Frontlines of Land Use

  • WRI’s Land & Carbon Lab harnesses the data revolution to monitor the pulse of the planet’s land and its nature-based carbon. It provides decision-makers everywhere with the information they need to address the global land squeeze – to combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and improve people’s lives.

Monitoring the world’s land and its nature-based carbon

WRI is developing a comprehensive monitoring system to track all forms of land cover, land use and land-use change globally, plus the associated carbon stocks and flows.

  • Partnering to turn data into impact

WRI works with diverse partners, connecting those at the vanguard of land monitoring with those at the frontlines of land-use decisions

  • Generating insights for collective accountability

WRI analyzes geospatial data to generate independent insights about the changing state of the world’s land, and how land is contributing to climate, biodiversity, and development goals

  • What is the Global Land Squeeze?

Over the past 100 years, natural landscapes have been radically transformed. By one estimate, 70% of grasslands, 50% of savannas, and 25% of forests worldwide have already been cleared or converted for agriculture.

Remaining natural ecosystems are now in peril, pushing the planet toward critical ecological and climatic tipping points and threatening the culture and livelihoods of many people, especially Indigenous communities.

  • People depend on land to produce food, feed, fiber, and fuel to support a growing world population and expanding middle class. Experts predict that agricultural land will expand by over 600 million hectares by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario – an area twice the size of India.

Yet avoiding this mass conversion is critical to combatting the effects of climate change. When people slash and burn forests, drain wetlands, or plow up grasslands, they release into the atmosphere vast amounts of CO2 once stored as carbon in soils and plants. To hold global warming under 1.5 degrees C, we must protect what remains and restore what’s been lost.

The system will monitor and alert users in near-real-time to ecosystem conversion and degradation, while also tracking restoration and recovery. It will integrate other high-resolution data on biodiversity, ecosystem services, tenure and rights, and management activities, to shed light on the drivers and impacts of these land transitions. Critically, the system will illuminate the climate implications of land use and land use change by monitoring carbon stocks, emissions, removals, and net fluxes at 30-meter resolution worldwide.

  • Land & Carbon Lab is Part of the Solution

Land is vital but finite. How can we reconcile humanity’s competing land demands with the need to combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and improve people’s lives?

Accurate monitoring is central to tackling the land squeeze. It can provide insights to support better land management by underpinning carbon markets, empowering local people to protect their land, informing land use planning, enabling companies to implement net-zero commitments, and alerting rapid responders to fires and other threats before it’s too late.

Fortunately, the amount of Earth observation data is growing exponentially – there are more drones in the sky and satellites circling Earth than ever. But this data deluge can be overwhelming to decision-makers with limited technical expertise.

Lack of data is no longer the biggest barrier to change. We now face the enormous challenge of interpreting, curating, and delivering disparate data as actionable and trustworthy information.

Land & Carbon Lab doesn’t stop with monitoring. WRI works directly with decision-makers and the organizations that support them to transform complex geospatial data into actionable information, delivering it to the right people, in the right formats, and at the right times.