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New Zealand Deploys Applies AI for Environmental Sustainability

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A new artificial intelligence solution is poised to give landowners streamlined access to forest carbon credit markets. Initially funded by a loan from the Provincial Development Unit (PDU), the unit had agreed to assist the AI company to develop the AI-based solution. The platform is designed to cope with the world’s most critical climate change and environmental concerns and supports New Zealand’s ambitions as a global leader in this field.

Carbon markets are considered one of the most cost-effective ways for family forest owners to engage climate change since they rely on private investment rather than expensive government funding. Carbon markets appeal to landowners as they provide a method for small forest owners to generate revenue from their land, where they can reinvest in their trees. However, currently, carbon markets are now out of reach for small forest owners due to their complexity, high upfront costs, and contract length.

CarbonCrop, a tech-enabled solution developed by the New Zealand AI company enables landowners to identify the extent of their carbon forestry opportunity without incurring any upfront costs or responsibilities. The product uses machine learning and remote sensing technology to identify, monitor and enhance forest carbon stocks and restoration alternatives. Furthermore, rather than a regulated approach, the company provide a consensual alternative for action.

In the context of ecological applications, AI can aid in the monitoring of ecosystems, wildlife, and their interactions. Its time-saving processing speeds can provide near-real-time satellite data to track illegal logging in forests. It can also simulate weather events and natural disasters to find vulnerabilities in disaster planning, determine which strategies for disaster response are most effective, and provide real-time disaster response coordination.

Another project New Zealand had developed similar to this is a marine mammal monitoring system using AI as well to detect, classify, and track the calls of different marine mammals, and an automated taxonomy product that allows laboratories to better monitor water quality for specific microscopic organisms and pollutants. An OpenGov Asia report explored Spyfish Aotearoa, a collaboration between a charitable organisation applying artificial intelligence to conservation and the Department of Conservation (DoC) that allows ocean enthusiasts to get directly involved in scientific research.

The Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment indicated that climate change puts the region at risk of more heavy rainfall events, drought, coastal erosion and inundation, and more extreme hot days exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the longer term. The report also projected major implications for communities and the economy.

The climate crisis continues to play out as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe. In fact, 2020 may is likely the third-warmest year on record; the planet was warmer by 1.2 degrees Celsius from January to October than the pre-industrial average measured between 1850 and 1900; and cyclones, floods and wildfires caused large-scale devastation. Many storms and cyclones also affected other Asian countries, such as cyclones Amphan, Nisarga, Nivar and Burevi in India and African countries, and cyclone Gati in Somalia which brought two years’ worth of rains in two days.

As the planet continues to warm, climate change impacts are worsening. Over 20% of species currently face extinction, and that number could rise to 50% by 2100 if there are no action taken. The DoC is confident that exploiting the advantages AI provides, will greatly improve conservation outcomes for the future and bring the country further down in the path towards thriving oceans.

Scientists and researchers from across New Zealand are being encouraged to use the new software platform that combines enormous amounts of environmental data to address problems varying from predator control to identifying communities at risk of flooding. Hopefully, people in Aotearoa and overseas will be able to see and learn more about the species in New Zealand’s marine reserves, while contributing directly to marine conservation.


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