How does space technology help conserve forests?

New digital tools to collect, sort and better use data are emerging with an increasing focus on forests to help understand the extent of space loss and reduce degradation.

  • The latest version of a program called “Integrated Management Effectiveness Technology” is now being used to protect forests.

Leonidas Nzigyemba, the chief supervisor of 5 protected forest areas in Burundi, the small country in Central Africa, said that improving the situation of forests must use new technology, saying that “it is not possible to organize and manage which the individual does not. know.”

Over the past two decades, Nzigyemba and his team have worked with local communities to protect and manage forests. He has to consider a range of factors in his work, including monitoring the impact of human activities and economies, tracking biodiversity and the impact of climate change, as well as staff numbers and budgets.

To help him track and record it all, he now uses the latest version of a free program called Integrated Management Effectiveness Technology. The technology was developed specifically for such environmental work through a project called “Biopama” (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Program).

The program is supported by the European Union and the 79 member countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Organization. “The use of this type of technology is to train site administrators to use it to collect good data, and analyze this data, to make good decisions,” Nzigyemba stressed.

Locating and protecting the world’s forests is not only important for the communities and economies hardest hit, as deforestation and forest loss contribute to climate change, so conserving forests can help address climate damage.

According to the United Nations, the world is losing about 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of its forests every year. This deforestation is responsible for 20% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which adds that by “reducing forest loss, we can reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change”.

In an effort to restore forests and other natural habitats around the world, last year the United Nations launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which ensures that countries, companies and other organizations pledge action to halt the degradation of ecosystems around the world. prevent, stop and reverse world. .

“Just saying we will restore forests is not enough,” says Yelena Fenigol, forestry officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “There is a need for responsible planning of how the ecosystem recovery mechanism will work, followed by practical actions taken on the ground that enable investments in system recovery environments, and the monitoring systems in place to track the recovery of those systems to trace

This increased focus on forests has led to the emergence of new digital tools to collect, sort and better use data. One such website is the FAO Ferm Ecosystem Monitoring Framework. Launched last year, the site uses satellite imagery to highlight changes in forests around the world.

Ferm’s primary data source is NASA, and the System for Investigating Global Ecosystem Dynamics is known as Gedi, which is pronounced like Gedi from the Star Wars film series. And a kind of kinship with this film series, his slogan is “May the forest be with you”, similar to the famous phrase used in all parts of that series, “May the force be with you.”

In fact, the technology itself appears to be science fiction turned reality. “We’re shooting lasers at trees from the International Space Station,” said Laura Duncanson, who helps lead the Jaday project from the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographic Sciences.

Dr Duncanson, a leading expert in remote sensing, added: “We use reflected energy to 3D map forests, including their height, canopy density and carbon content. From space, but now with Jaday we can measure the carbon emissions associated with more accurately determined. forest loss.”

Norway’s Business Planet Labs also supplies maps and data to Ferm, which operates more than 200 camera satellites. These satellites capture approximately 350 million images of the Earth’s surface daily, each covering an area of ​​one square kilometer.

Planet Labs can also be used directly by governments and companies around the world. In addition to monitoring forests, its cameras can be used to inspect everything from drought to agricultural, energy and infrastructure projects, as well as to monitor key infrastructure, such as ports.

“All the available images from space have dramatically changed the way we monitor forests, because they have provided us with very repeatable views of places,” said Remi D’Annunzio, FAO’s Forestry Officer. Combined with these publicly available satellites, a complete picture of the Earth can be obtained every 4 to 5 days.

An example of how all this near-real-time monitoring is being used by Ferm is pilot schemes in Vietnam and Laos that are trying to tackle the problem of illegal logging. Alerts are sent to rangers and volunteer social service workers on their mobile phones when new forests are detected.

“What we are trying to do now is not only to understand how much forest is being lost, but also exactly where it is being lost in this or that area, so that we can monitor the loss, so that we can prevent the situation from getting worse, ” FAO Forestry Officer Akiko Inoguchi said almost instantaneously.

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