The global ‘forestry’ sector encompasses commercial plantation forestry, the conservation of the world’s remaining natural forests, and the sustainable use of peatlands. The sector is rapidly changing in response to global demand for products such as palm oil and cocoa, which are driving deforestation across the tropics, including in protected areas. Companies who purchase these products are increasingly being held responsible for their role in deforestation, and hence have a need for information on the environmental impact their purchasing decisions are having.

Similarly, developing country government organisations which are the dedicated stewards of these natural resources are under increasing pressure from national and international stakeholders to monitor forest and peatland resources, enhance management and report on performance under limited budgets.

Space solutions offer unique advantages in terms of providing very broad scale coverage of forest and peatland resources that simply would not be possible using ground based or aerial survey techniques. In several cases the developing countries have long since adopted space solutions, but are not working with cutting edge technologies that could improve performance and efficiency.

Specifically, space solutions:

  • Improve forest conservation: Improving the accuracy and timeliness of deforestation detections that allow local agencies to respond more quickly to violations of forest law, such as encroachments into protected areas
  • Improve supply chain transparency: Companies purchasing high Deforestation Risk Commodities; and stakeholders concerned with the Corporate Sustainability Commitments can track forest management performance in remote areas
  • Improve the sustainable management of peatland resources: Integrated field and earth observation data allows stakeholders to report on the condition of peatlands at scale, and monitor their condition over time
  • Allow the integration of solutions across multiple sectors e.g. forestry, agricultural, and disaster resilience: Some space solutions and the infrastructure required to produce them can support multiple sectors, addressing challenges in agriculture and disaster resilience in addition to forestry. Indeed many solutions may well be more powerful when integrated across multiple sectors

There are many global initiatives which are already using space in the forestry sector:

International Partnership Programme: A UK Space Agency initiative that uses the UK Space sector’s research and innovation strengths to deliver a sustainable, economic and societal benefit to undeveloped nations and developing economies. IPP has five forestry projects

The World Resources Institute: Provides the Global Forest Watch platform to distribute data on forest loss between the years 2000 and 2017, which is derived from the analysis of huge volumes of satellite data. This provided a revolutionary shift in the uptake of remote sensing data and analyses in the forestry sector, and demonstrated the possibilities of space solutions for forestry

There are numerous projects and activities across the world operating under the broad umbrella of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries; more commonly known under the acronym of REDD+. All of the activities under this umbrella will have monitoring requirements, and the only feasible way to monitor vast remote forests is to use satellite data

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