Internet could become environmental watchdog-study

OSLO, (Reuters) – The Internet could provide an  early warning system for environmental damage, imitating an  online watchdog that gives alerts about outbreaks of disease,  scientists said yesterday.

An automated trawl of blogs, videos, online news and other  sources could yield bits of information to fill in a bigger  picture of problems such as global warming, pollution,  deforestation or over-fishing, they said.

“We’re facing huge environmental challenges … But we don’t  have good monitoring systems,” said Victor Galaz of Stockholm  University who was lead author of the study with colleagues in  Britain, the United States and Sweden. “With the Internet there are pretty good ways to get that  information. Nobody has exploited that really,” he told Reuters.  Better environmental information could help governments to act.

Online statistics about a surge in fish prices in an Asian  port, for instance, might hint at wider problems of  over-fishing. Or a blog about an insect pest outbreak in a  Nordic forest might fit a pattern tied to global warming.

The study pointed to successes by the Canadian-developed  Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), which trawls  news wires and web sites for information about diseases.

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