Forests play a key role in reducing the effects of climate change. The requirements for monitoring carbon balance are growing constantly and the monitoring methods have quickly developed. Forest Carbon Monitoring (FCM) is a project led by VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and financed by the European Space Agency (ESA), aiming to create a new forest carbon service for forest operators’ needs.
The obligations for reporting forest carbon balance have increased significantly. Companies report their carbon balances for verification of forest certificates and try to respond to consumers’ growing expectations. Administrative organizations must report carbon balances of their countries or parts of them to meet the requirements of international agreements, for example. The new forest carbon service will help different forest operators by making suitable monitoring methods available for them.
New methods and satellites help to monitor forest carbon. Forest areas can now be imaged with increasing frequency and spatial resolution: the resolution for images taken every few days is now commonly 10-20 meters, while 10 years ago it was up to a kilometer. As the resolution and frequency grow, so does the amount of data. This has required development of new cloud services for managing the data and images.
“The project starts with a user interview period. The aim is to find out what kind of data the users need to fulfill their forest carbon monitoring and reporting requirements. Based on this information we will build a service that includes a variety of monitoring methods to serve different user groups. The service will help different types of users from companies operating in limited areas to national administrative agencies and international organizations. Within the project, we will be using service design methods to help bring the user needs to life and help the project partners co-create the best possible solution ideas together. The demonstration will include seven target areas in Europe and one in Peru, ranging from local case studies to European wide mapping”, said Senior Scientist Jukka Miettinen from VTT.
The forest carbon service will provide the forest operators with reliable data that fits their needs. It uses data provided by forest operators, satellite imagery and other data sources. When a user orders data, the service provider chooses optimal monitoring method, produces the outputs, and sends them back to the user.
“The outputs consist of traditional forest variables, such as species distribution, age or height of the trees, or forest area. This information enables modelling forest biomass and carbon and, in future, forecasting their development”, Miettinen said. “VTT participates in most of the components and coordinates the entire project. The aim of all this work is to help forest operators and politicians in decisions related to forests.”
VTT has strong expertise on big data processing, remote sensing and monitoring natural resources. Know-how in forest monitoring has been built up during years in various projects financed by EU and ESA, and FCM continues this tradition. It uses services developed in the EU Forest Flux project and technical solutions built in Forest Digital Twin. Forest carbon service will be built on VTT’s Forest Thematic Exploitation Platform, which is already widely used. A service ecosystem where different service providers can offer their computing and analysis services for the forest industry and operators will be built around the forest carbon service.
The Forest Carbon Monitoring (FCM) project started in July of 2021 and will last for two years. VTT coordinates the project, which is carried out by a consortium with eight partners. The consortium brings together world’s leading expertise in forest stakeholder interaction, forest biomass mapping, carbon monitoring and modelling. In addition to VTT, the consortium includes AFRY, European Forest Institute, Gamma RS, GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Satellio (Terramonitor), Simosol and the University of Helsinki. The budget is 1.7 million euros.