Development and implementation of Terra-i for near-real time monitoring of Vietnamese forests

Date: 05/2017 to 12/2017

In 2015 Vietnam submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) where it expressed its commitment to increase its forest cover from under 40% in 2010 to 45% by 2013. The Vietnamese government has forest protection and development as one of the most important objectives in its Sustainable Development Strategy 2020. In order to achieve this objective, the government of Vietnam developed policies, directives and action plans which focus on expanding planted forest cover and building capacity for forest fire protection. Early control of forest fires is of increasing concern as droughts in the region are expected to increase in intensity and duration due to climate change.

Vietnam’s national strategy highlights the need for capacity building for researchers and officers to build and monitor data systems for sustainable development management, international collaboration on information exchange and learning new technologies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Terra-i ( is a near-real time monitoring system for natural vegetation loss detection. The website entails a map of vegetation loss from January 2004 up to the present, on a 16-day interval. Terra-i data is available for free download and has been used by researchers in studies on areas with high risk of deforestation, for road impact assessments, assessments of effectiveness of protected areas, trends and rates analyses, and others.

Terra-i’s methodology is based on the premise that natural vegetation follows a predictable pattern of changes in greenness from one date to the next, due to site-specific characteristics and climatic conditions in the preceding days. It uses a Bayesian-probability based neural network to learn how the greenness of a given pixel (derived from the MODIS product MODIS13Q1) responds to a unit of rainfall (derived from the TRMM and GPM daily rainfall products). It then applies the model to identify anomalies (e.g. non-natural fluctuations in greenness) in the time series which could be attributed to human activities.

By incorporating local knowledge, the outputs of Terra-i, launched in April 2014 by the Peruvian Ministry of Environment as the official early warning system for land cover and land-use change in Peru, have had a direct impact on how government agencies analyze loss of local coverage and on their decisionmaking.


Just as in Peru, this study will explore the potential of the tool to enable rapid response and transparent monitoring of land use change in Vietnam. The advantages of a high temporal resolution can best be demonstrated through a pilot project such as the one designed for Di Linh district of Lam Dong province. The project aims to provide decision makers, land use planners and local forest rangers access to near real-time data that shows forest land areas that are undergoing transformation in a format and scale relevant to support their activities.

Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Map the institutional landscape and the forest monitoring and reporting processes already in place to identify the actors involved in forest monitoring;
  • Identify how Terra-i can fill information gaps and needs of the different actors;
  • Pilot the integration of Terra-i within already existing activities for forest monitoring, field validation and change reporting;
  • Further develop Terra-i to include higher resolution imagery and generate outputs relevant for the Di Linh context;
  • Assess Terra-i values added together with UN-REDD and MARD; 
  • Draft a roadmap for the implementation of the tool at national scale.

Approach, Outputs and Outcomes

Through desk reviews of related previous work, and modeling and consultative exercises, CIAT will calibrate Terra-i to suit Di Linh district’s context. Training and capacity-building activities will be performed to equip end users – local community members, forest rangers – with the skills to use the tool and the data it generates. Following a consultative process involving the government and CSOs (civil society organizations), this project will contribute to the development of a roadmap for the deployment of Terra-i as a national monitoring tool for forests and vegetation.