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Climate & Environmental Change

Time to invest in Earth Observation

Philip Green

Chief Science Officer

May 28, 2024

Posted on LinkedIn by Phil Green, October 2022. 

The fascinating thing about looking through photo albums is seeing how much family, friends, cars, clothing and everything else has changed over the years. Now we can do the same with forests using Earth Observation  (EO) data to create a “photo album”. The revolution in EO data is a unique opportunity to create that album.   Think of this data as a very useful asset enabling you to measure the dynamics of forests, especially the ones that affect your company.

Pierre Lionnet, a Managing Director at Eurospace, the trade association of the European space industry, forecasts there will be 10,000 satellites with eyes on the Earth by 2030. Satellites with many new sensors that will open huge opportunities previously not possible.  In fact, FRMG was able to launch our SkyForest technology because of one—Landsat 8. Imagine the wealth of information on forests there will be in just a few years. 

During the recent ForestSAT conference in Berlin, where scientists from around the world showcased their most recent EO research on forests, many said they were unable to measure change because the satellite they were using was new. Often the measurements they made were made for the first time ever—such as a global map of forest biomass enabled by two lidar satellites, GEDI and ICESAT-2, that were launched just four years ago. 

Scientists are profiting from explosion in Earth EO data to measure forests, and where older data exists, forest change, globally. Much of this research is aimed at policy makers. The research generally produces coarse data on forests, but nevertheless illustrates global patterns.  The policies that result may not be in your company’s interests, for example they may reduce timber supply or effect wildfire risk. 

Using satellites to get EO data, you can measure local change more accurately, enabling you to influence government policy in a more impactful way.

For example, a Sept 1 article in Science Magazine used global EO data to assess risk to carbon storage, biodiversity and disturbance in forests. They found that the southern boreal forest, forests in Western North America and parts of the Amazon were at consistently higher risk. (See figure below. The redder the shading on the map, the higher the risk.)

Some of the risks they looked at were climate-sensitive risks to forest stability, biodiversity and long-term carbon storage triggered by fire, drought, wind, invasive species and diseases, and changes in tree mortality, species shifts or limits to growth and regeneration. 

How accurate are these predictions? What are the implications for your business? How will you know if you don’t acquire EO data now? It is possible to download archival EO data—but without field data collected around the same time as the satellite data it of limited use. 

Earth observation data on forests in a new asset class whose value will grow as change accelerates. It’s time to invest.

 #forestry #earthobservation #change #climatechange #biodiversity #timber #satelliteimagery

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