Leicester involved in Earth Observation project to protect tropical forests worldwide

Our University is involved in a new £15m project funded by the UK Space Agency to help to protect tropical forests throughout the world.

The 'Forests 2020' project is set to help countries to improve the management and protection of around 300 million hectares of tropical forests - 12 times the size of the United Kingdom - and sees sustainability software and data company Ecometrica lead an international consortium that brings together many of the world's leading experts on forest monitoring.

As part of the project, Ecometrica will sub-contract experts from the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), University of Edinburgh, the University of Leicester, and fellow Edinburgh company Carbomap, a specialist in LiDAR forest mapping.

Our University will be leading the development of forest change detection systems within the project. The project aims for the detection and measurement of difficult to measure forest change: degradation associated with small-scale agriculture, mining and illegal logging, as well as changes under cloud cover. NCEO’s staff at Leicester provide key skills in processing of satellite data for forests, taking advantage of the leading technology of Sentinel satellites from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Professor Heiko Balzter, who is leading the University of Leicester work on Forests 2020, said: “Pristine rainforests are not only wonderful ecosystems in their own right. They also store a lot of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Forests are also home to an astonishing richness of animal and plant species. I am very excited to be able to contribute to the protection of the world’s forests using satellites.”

Professor John Remedios, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), added: “The launch of this project marks the remarkable expansion of a joint industry-research science service to make a difference to forests across the globe.  Leicester and Edinburgh will be leading centres of innovation in forest services.”