Forest Biomass Analysis

In this pilot project, volunteer users will gather forest inventory data including stem biomass, tree species, tree height and age to be utilized as an in-situ data for forest biomass computation from the satellite imagery. For collecting in-situ data from the forests, a VTT-developed forest measurement tool called ‘Relasphone’ will be used.

The forest measurements will be combined with remote sensing data, and a forest biomass map will be computed. The measured forest data includes GPS based location information, which enables its use as in-situ reference data. A fully automatic forest inventory computation engine is still in a development phase, and it will be simulated in the demo by using the VTT-developed Probability chain. Figure below shows the general idea of creating thematic forest maps. In this concept, in-situ data is collected cost-efficiently with the mobile forest measurement tool and this information is used as reference data in satellite image interpretation.

General principle of creating thematic forest map

General principle of creating thematic forest map


In Nordic conditions, typical users for the Relasphone application could be forest owners who want information on the status of their forest, and consequently on the possibilities of gaining revenue by selling timber. Citizens who are concerned about state of the environment are assumedly also willing to provide data for mapping forest resources.  They may, for instance, be worried about forest logging operations if these operations are obviously missing in published forest resource maps.  The level of motivation of the contributing citizens will be further analyzed in order to avoid possible estimation bias in cases where the motivation factors could lead to biased data.

Once the concept is studied successfully, it can dramatically change the way forest databases and management plans are produced and may lead to major cost reductions. Presently the ground data for the plans are produced by forestry professionals, but it can be foreseen that by combining ground reference data, UAV, and satellite data, principal material for forest management plans of acceptable quality can be collected without the work of professional foresters’ on the field. The economic approach for forest inventories makes it possible to improve sustainable use of forest resources and their protection. A low-cost solution can increase the coverage of forest management plans particularly in regions in which possibilities to invest on expensive planning work are limited.

The concept can be easily applied for other purposes that require similar information. The users of this category include the NGO’s that are concerned about nature conservation and illegal cuttings, the European Commission that will fund EU-wide land cover mapping, and the FAO that conducts global survey of forest resources, for instance. One potential commercial use of the tools is the REDD (Reduction of Emissions from avoided Deforestation and Degradation of forests) process that will require inventory of forest resources over wide areas in the tropical zone. For instance, in the developing countries inexpensive smart phones and GPS could be given to people free of charge on the condition that they collect data and images from forests to support satellite image mapping that further serves the economy of the country through sustainable use of forest resources.