Innovative forest monitoring platform goes mobile

In Issue29 by FIEA

Putting the world’s eyes in the skies to work to improve human lives and combat climate change is now easier thanks to an overhaul of the Food and Agriculture Organization’ innovative geospatial monitoring system.

A new version of SEPAL – System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring – has been developed that enables advanced forest monitoring from mobile phones. It also provides access to high-resolution data updated daily by a fleet of more than 190 satellites run by Planet, an integrated aerospace and data analytics company.

The new SEPAL 2.1 platform was launched in New York at the Nature for Climate Hub, an event coinciding with the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. The easy-to-use platform offers anyone, anywhere unparalleled access to satellite data and supercomputing power. It paves the way for increasing accuracy and transparency of countries’ reporting on national plans to mitigate the effects of climate change and fine-tune land-use policies and their implementation, as well as enhancing collective tenure rights where appropriate.

The SEPAL project is funded by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). Along with access via mobile phones, the new SEPAL platform also provides access to Planet’s daily monitoring data for eight forest countries – Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, and Mozambique. These countries are front-runners to unlock results-based finance for carbon emission reductions through the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Carbon Fund and BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes.

“As of today, the FAO Forestry Department supports over 70 countries as they develop forest monitoring capacities to support Sustainable Forest Management and Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) systems in order to receive results-based payments. These first eight countries will serve as a test case for how advanced earth observation technologies can help facilitate new solutions in REDD+ and beyond,” said Julian Fox, FAO’s team leader for National Forest Monitoring.

Planet is imaging all of Earth’s landmass every day in four spectral bands, at a spatial resolution of 3.7 meters per pixel, in a bid to offer “insights at the speed of change.” This means that those engaged in forest management are potentially able to gain access to an unprecedented data monitoring rate to track forest cover and changes in land use, and address degradation on a continual basis.

“The adoption and use of SEPAL for forest monitoring has exceeded all expectations and its impact on country reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is already a significant improvement compared to previous years,” said Tiina Vahanen, Chief, Forestry Policy and Resources Division in FAO’s Forestry Department.



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