Posted By Marcin Kowalski Posted On

How improved satellite imagery is assisting in the battle against deforestation

A recent project that offers free accessibility to high spatial, as well as temporal resolution satellite imagery is showing to be a crucial first move toward developing forest surveillance systems. Trees are critical in the global battle against climate change because they will withstand up to a third of all the greenhouse gas emissions. Global Forest Watch data shows that the world’s tropical rainforests are disappearing at the pace of one football field after every six seconds in the year 2019. As a result, tropical forest conservation has long been a pillar of climate change diplomacy, as well as a vital component of 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement. Deforestation has historically been challenging to track and avoid owing to the intensity and size at which it may occur.

Satellite imagery has been utilized to track, consider, and tackle deforestation for years, beginning with NASA’s Landsat missions in the 1970s. Common shortcomings in terms of frequency as well as the quality of such photographs, on the other hand, have previously limited their usefulness – too frequently, the trees had vanished before anybody had time to notice, let alone respond. But that’s shifting, thanks to modern satellite technologies from companies including Planet, which has ushered in a flood of dynamically sensed earth observation data with even higher spatial as well as temporal resolutions. Landsat satellite photos have a pixel resolution of about 30 meters and poor revisit rates; by contrast, Planet’s satellite imagery had a pixel resolution of 3.5-5 meters, weekly alerts, as well as global coverage.

“For the very first time, the data accurately represents the rate and extent of deforestation on the land, making it even more actionable,” says Tara O’Shea, Planet’s director of forest programs. That is one of the reasons why a recent US$43 million deal between Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and the Norwegian government as well as its partners Planet and Airbus, agreed in September 2020, can make such a difference in the fight against deforestation.

This agreement provides universal access to high-quality and high-frequency satellite images of tropical areas, which are home to a few of the globe’s most ecologically significant and endangered forests, via Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). The NICFI agreement isn’t really Planet’s first collaboration in this market, despite being the biggest. Indeed, when the company’s pioneers founded Planet in the year 2010 with the vision of utilizing space to support life on Earth, one of their major concerns was solving the problem of deforestation.

They’ve been collaborating with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since the start of 2019 to offer high-resolution imagery from DOVES satellite constellation data collection for eight tropical countries: Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Mozambique.

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