Professor Heiko Balzter

Institute Director

School/Department: Geography Geology & The Environment, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3820



I am Professor of Physical Geography and Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at the University of Leicester, and am establishing the new Institute for Environmental Futures. I chair the Programme Coordination Team of the UKRI Landscape Decisions Programme which has 60 constituent funded projects. In the National Centre for Earth Observation I have led the Official Development Assistance Programme. I hold the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2011) the Royal Geographical Society’s Cuthbert Peek Award ‘for advancing geographical knowledge of human impact through earth observation’ (2015) and the Copernicus Masters Award (Sustainable Living Challenge 2017) for my work on deforestation monitoring. I am a member of the LULUCF (Land Use / Land Use Change and Forestry) Scientific Steering Committee for the UK National Greenhouse Gas Account.


Climate change is occurring at unprecedented speed. Climate change as a global challenge requires a reliable global monitoring and forecasting system to deliver information that policy makers and business leaders can trust. My research focuses on Earth observation applications that can help address the climate emergency. I am director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research. My research over the past 20 years has made extensive use of advanced Earth observation and remote sensing. My most significant contributions to knowledge in the discipline in remote sensing of forest biomass have contributed to the ESA Climate Change Initiative and the BIOMASS satellite mission. I have pioneered machine learning applications to satellite data and developed ‘big satellite data’ solutions e.g. deforestation alerts from Sentinel-2 implemented in Python. These methods have been applied in Kenya Colombia and elsewhere and won a European Copernicus Masters Award in 2017. I have had a long-standing involvement in the Copernicus programme that established the European land monitoring core service.


Pacheco-Pascagaza, A.M., Gou, Y., Louis, V., Roberts, J.F., Rodríguez-Veiga, P., da Conceição Bispo, P., Espírito-Santo, F.D.B., Robb, C., Upton, C., Galindo, G., Cabrera, E., Pachón, I., Castillo, M.A., Carrillo, O., Meneses, C., Iñiguez, M., & Balzter, H., (2022): Near-real-time change detection system using Sentinel-2 and machine learning: a test for Mexican and Colombian forests. Remote Sensing 14:707

Rayner, M., Balzter, H., Jones, L., Whelan, M., and Stoate, C. (2021): Effects of improved land-cover mapping on predicted ecosystem service outcomes in a lowland river catchment. Ecological Indicators 133 108463

Zimbres, B., Rodríguez-Veiga, P., Shimbo, J.Z., da Conceição Bispo, P., Balzter, H. et al. (2021): Mapping the stock and spatial distribution of aboveground woody biomass in the native vegetation of the Brazilian Cerrado biome Forest Ecology and Management 499 119615

Santoro, M., Cartus, O., Carvalhais, N., Rozendaal, D., Avitabilie, V., Araza, A., de Bruin, S., Herold, M., Quegan, S., Rodríguez Veiga, P., Balzter, H., Carreiras, J. et al. (2021): The global forest above-ground biomass pool for 2010 estimated from high-resolution satellite observations. Earth System Science Data 13 3927-3950

Ibrahim, S., Balzter, H., Tansey, K., Kaduk, J. and Lawal U.M. (2021): Detecting phenological changes in plant functional types over West African savannah dominated landscape. International Journal of Remote Sensing 42 567-594

Rodríguez-Veiga, P., Carreiras, J., Smallman, T.L., Exbrayat, J.-F., Ndambiri, J., Mutwiri, F., Nyasaka, D., Quegan, S., Williams, M. and Balzter, H. (2020): Carbon Stocks and Fluxes in Kenyan Forests and Wooded Grasslands Derived from Earth Observation and Model-Data Fusion. Remote Sensing 12 2380

Rodriguez Veiga, P., Mathieu, R., Lohberger, S., Avitabile, V., Asner, G., Schmullius, C., Berninger, A., Ziolkowski, D., Mermoz, S., Fransson, J., Yrjö, R., Balzter, H., Le Toan, T. et al. (2019): Forest biomass retrieval approaches from Earth Observation in different biomes. International Journal of Applied Geoinformation and Earth Observation 77 53-68

Cole, B., Smith, G., and Balzter, H. (2018): Acceleration and fragmentation of CORINE land cover changes in the United Kingdom from 2006-2012 detected by Copernicus IMAGE2012 satellite data. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 73 107-122

Barnes, C., Balzter, H., Barrett, K., Eddy, J., Milner, S., and Suárez, J.C. (2017): Airborne Laser Scanning and Tree Crown Fragmentation Metrics for the Assessment of Phytophthora ramorum infected Larch Forest Stands. Forest Ecology and Management 404 294-305

Bush, A., Sollman, R., Wilting, A., Bohmann, K., Cole, B., Balzter, H. et al. (2017): Connecting Earth Observation to High-Throughput Biodiversity Data. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1 0176


  • Understanding trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services in multifunctional landscapes using Earth observation data and models
  • Forest monitoring methods using time-series data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, including tree diseases, deforestation, forest degradation and disturbances
  • Forest biomass mapping and monitoring from Earth Observation to quantify the carbon cycle
  • Machine learning applications to Earth observation data of the land surface


I am module convenor of the MSc module GY7709 ""Satellite Data Analysis in Python"" and teach some lectures on other modules.

Press and media

Climate change, carbon cycle, land use, landscapes, net zero carbon, COP26, deforestation.


I hold the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2011) the Royal Geographical Society’s Cuthbert Peek Award ‘for advancing geographical knowledge of human impact through earth observation’ (2015) and the Copernicus Masters Award (Sustainable Living Challenge 2017) for my work on deforestation monitoring.


I received the degree of Dipl. Ing. agr. (equivalent to an MSc) in 1994 and Dr. agr. (PhD) in 1998 from Justus-Liebig-University Giessen Germany.
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