What about the effective forest area, clear-cut areas, burnt areas, and forest biomass figures? Simply inconsistencies.

Forest Certification

There are several specific requirements for forestry companies, who manage timber to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards to map and estimate basic forest parameters such as effective area, health status, homogeneity, tree height, timber volume, etc. on a regular basis. It is also of great importance from an operational standpoint, especially in these times where forestry companies rely on external shareholders and debt finance provided by banks. Both stakeholders have a strong interest in more timely and accurate forest measurements as confirmation of shareholder value and the ability to service debt.

Today, the conventional practice, using a system of sample plot reflecting the area to be surveyed, is to collect key forest parameters, which subsequently are then averaged across the compartment to produce mean, standard deviation and error bounds. By applying standard allometric equations (i.e. the forest model) this information is used to produce estimates of timber volume per compartment, and finally extrapolated across the plantation, providing an estimate of total timber volume. However, the impact of costs on sampling design and data collection methodologies limits the possibility of regular plantation wide forest estimates at a single point in time, which creates uncertainty on two fronts:

  • Operational: forest estimates are essential in programming and managing forestry operations including logging programmes, mill management, investment planning and finance.
  • Certification: third party verification of forest estimates is required to confirm that planned rates of timber harvesting across a plantation is sustainable.

A customized service has been designed aiming at the provision of transparent, comprehensive and cost effective information by integrating, in recognized forestry models, specific Earth Observation based products derived and infered from spaceborne interferometric SAR data and optical imagery.

The figure shows, as example, a typical set of output generated, in this specific case, using exclusively high resolution SAR data.

Pan-Tropical Mapping of Forest Cover and Above-Ground Carbon Stock

As part of the pan-tropical forest mapping effort funded by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation,, and The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Woods Hole Research Center is producing two key datasets from MODIS, ICESAT and ALOS PALSAR sensors. The processing software for the generation of PALSAR pan-tropical mosaic (15 meter resolution) is based on a customized SARscape cluster solution, which enables the processing of 15,000 images in less then one month.

Selected publication

F. Holecz, M. Barbieri, C.C. Eyre, and N. Moennig, Forest management - Mapping, monitoring, and inference of biophysical parameters using ALOS PALSAR and Cosmo-SkyMed data, JAXA Kyoto and Carbon Initiative, Tokyo, 2011.