Scientists have been able to map out 1.8 billion individual tree canopies across millions of kilometers of the Sahel and Sahara regions of West Africa thanks to artificial intelligence. A group of researchers analyzed a huge database of satellite images with neural networks, which can recognize objects based on their shapes and colors.
In order to do this, the AI system was shown satellite images where trees have been manually traced. From this, it has started to leam what a tree looks like and is capable of picking out individual canopies from thousands of images in the database. Without AI, this wouldn’t have been possible.
There is hope that in the future, it will be possible to map the location and size of every tree worldwide, within certain limitations.
This new invention will have positive outcomes for ecology, preservation, and climate change as it will be able to determine how many trees there are on the planet, especially in drier areas. Hence, the study could help realize if the efforts to reduce deforestation are efficient or not. Moreover, the satellites will also enable scientists to see how much carbon is stored in deserts.
However, it is too early to determine if the research will have an important impact on the understanding of the climate crisis.