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How satellite images, log tracking and carbon analysis can help restore Earth’s forests (part 2/3)

New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) aims to protect and restore forests across the globe, and Simosol is proud to be a part of this project. According to the NYDF, f. ex. halting deforestation and improving forestry practices could cost-effectively remove seven billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.

This description of our contribution is divided in three blog posts. The first one is an overall summary of different solutions and methods, this second part describes how satellite images, log tracking and carbon analysis can help restore forests, and the third part consists of solutions for long-term sustainability of forest management.

The NYDF established 10 Goals for the project as presented in the following image.

Modern Earth observation solutions

Advances in satellite image solutions have permeated the operations of multiple business sectors in the last decades. In forestry and agriculture, where organizations can manage up to hundreds of thousands of hectares, remote sensing capabilities deliver previously-unimagined capabilities, from large scale mapping of entire ecosystems, to finely detailed forest cover analysis. Aligned with the NYDF objective on “Restoration”, these solutions can help to identify degraded landscapes and forestlands in an unmatched timeframe and accuracy.

In Simosol we provide advance remote sensing analyses to support the protection of forests, commercial plantations and crops. Our clients typically receive detailed maps of the projects (the degree of detail follows the specific requirements), and forest cover analyses which can be used to distinguish between crops, forest stands, ecosystems (e.g. plantations and natural vegetation), and more (incl. river causeways and manmade infrastructure). In addition, we also provide remote sensing monitoring solutions, allowing our clients to receive periodical reports which identify events such as forest fires, illegal felling and the completion of harvesting activities.

Figure 1. Detection of planned and illicit harvests in Angola.

A case example is a client who required a solution to monitor possible illegal fellings in their forestry assets. For example, in Angola, illegal fellings have resulted in the degradation of 40 % of their forest plantations, following a decline of 31 % between 2010 and 2014 which unfortunately continues to this day. In large scale forest projects, this problem used to be unmanageable until the advent of remote sensing technologies which can allow a periodical monitoring of large areas across the globe. From our office in Finland, our computer scientists and forest engineers oversee the development of our client’s plantations, from whom we receive detailed harvesting schedules which we use as a basis to determine if the clearings that we see identify in our analysis are the result of possible wood theft (see Figure 1). Consequently, our client has been able to not only determine with great accuracy the quantity of wood which has been compromised, but, more importantly, engage in preemptive measures by identifying patterns of illegal activity.

Log tracking systems

A forestry supply chain begins in the harvest areas where logs are felled before being transported to log yards, mills, harbors, and clients around the world. These systems support the chain of custody and provide tools to fight illegal wood trade.

Depending on the project, an organization will have to transport different quantities of individual logs, of which the specific species determines the unit value. These unit values range from a couple of dozen of dollars in species like eucalyptus, to the hundreds when dealing with high-value teak logs. Therefore, the chain of custody is not only a matter of compliance, but, in many cases it's a priority for maintaining a healthy bottom line.

Teak grows in tropical countries, including Central America where a large percentage of the harvested logs are shipped halfway around the world to India and Vietnam. From the moment a 25 year old teak tree is felled, the supplier wants to follow it through the log yards, containers and harbour quarantine zones until its received by the client. So, how can this be done in a way that is reliable and doesn't chew away the long-awaited profit?

Some years ago we were contacted by Apical Reforestadora, a teak company in Panama. They needed a solution for tracking their teak logs in each log yard and in each container. A couple of months later, we implemented for them IPTIM Logcount, a comprehensive individual log tracking solution which is comprised of three main elements, namely barcodes, an application that runs in handheld computers with barcode readers, and a web based system which provides information on the location of each log.

While the solution is robust and customizable to the needs of each client, the principle is simple. Barcodes are attached, barcodes are read, data related to each log is registered, data is transformed into information, and reports are generated with a click. As a result, Apical can verify in real time in which log yard or container each log is located, how much volume is stored in each log yard, and the commercial value in each container. They can also generate detailed and accurate packing lists faster than ever, and, very importantly, obtain productivity data which can feed their planning systems (also provided by Simosol through IPTIM Assets).

Boreal forest. Photo: Anne Nygård / Unsplash

Carbon analysis services

Forests act as a major carbon sink by transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the living biomass, and therefore contribute to climate change mitigation. Aligned with the NYDF’s “Reduce Emissions” and “Forest Finance” goals, Simosol has developed a comprehensive forest carbon analysis that tracks the fluxes of carbon between the atmosphere, vegetation, soil and wood-based products.

As a starting point, Simosol’s carbon analysis services have provided institutional investors, forest asset managers, and municipalities a quantified understanding of the current net carbon impact of their forests and forestry operations. How much carbon is stored in forests and forest soils, how much do forests sequestrate carbon, how much is removed from forests to harvested wood products, and what is the overall net impact when considering the operational emissions as well as substitution factors of wood products? This knowledge is a crucial element for organizations striving for data-based decision making and better understanding of the dynamics of sustainable forest management and forest carbon.

As a next step, by combining the carbon analysis with Simosol’s core expertise in forest estate modelling and mathematically optimized long-term forest management planning, we can transform the understanding of the current situation into concrete forest management decisions. What are the quantified carbon impacts of different short- or long-term forest management decisions, what are the net carbon balances of different forest management scenarios, and what would be the optimal financially viable long-term forest management strategy for maximizing the carbon pools and sinks of our forests? These elements provide a basis for forest managers and investors to be able to build and implement better, comprehensive, data-based forest management strategies aimed at reducing emissions with the help of forests.

We will tirelessly continue to develop services that will enable making better decisions to ensure sustainability in the management of forests and commercial plantations all over the world.

Continue reading:

Part 1: Our contribution to the restoration of Earth’s forests

Part 3: How to ensure long term forestry sustainability

Need some help with forest management optimisation, carbon analysis or forest valuation? Contact us!

Need some help with forest management optimisation, carbon analysis or forest valuation? Contact us!

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