Combating deforestation while measuring its impact

The “Forestry Analyzer” project, a tool for measuring and monitoring reforestation projects

Climate change is one of the most serious problems to have affected man in the last few centuries. Deforestation has been shown to have a negative impact on climate change, global biogeochemical cycles and the loss of biodiversity. According to the estimates of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) forests, and the relative processes of forest degradation and deforestation, are responsible for 20% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Slowing down or stopping deforestation is a short-term and economical option for significantly reducing global emissions with extraordinary additional benefits for biological diversity and the sustainable development of tropical nations.

Industrialised countries and businesses have also become increasingly interested in playing an active role in the protection of forests and their extension; an interest also connected with the creation of the Carbon Market and carbon credits, introduced by the Kyoto (1997) and Paris agreements (2020) and confirmed this year at the Cop26 in Glasgow.

The “Forestry Analyzer” aims to contain or eliminate the processes of deforestation (the systematic cutting down of trees to make room for farmland or livestock or for the use of wood) and forest degradation (process of anthropogenic or natural origin that leads to the deterioration of the forest), first and foremost providing a tool for the monitoring and precise measurement of deforestation emissions. In fact, being able to measure these processes is the prerequisite for managing and monitoring funding projects in the area of reforestation.

Even if most industrialized countries have introduced incentive measures as the Carbon Tax, to date the majority of investments from companies occur on a voluntary basis in the context of a growing sensitivity to corporate social responsibility. As an incentive, virtuous companies that decide to launch “green processes” are awarded carbon credits. Companies that don’t have enough credits to be “carbon neutral” – for example because they aren’t able to further optimise the reduction of emissions in their production processes – can adopt compensatory measures: purchasing them from companies that have a surplus or funding a project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Private companies establish the level of their funding on the basis of the project’s carbon emission reduction goals. This makes it necessary to measure the process of deforestation or degradation, identifying the size of the area impacted and calculating how many tonnes of carbon a certain forest will no longer be able to absorb in the future. Using this measurement the delta of an eventual reforestation project is calculated, i.e. how much CO2 – conversely – can be reduced thanks to reforestation, and on this basis the relative number of carbon credits to assign to that particular project.

The algorithms of “Forestry Analyzer” are based on “Copernicus Land Monitoring Services”, summary indicators that the European Union makes available to the scientific world and which provide information on the state of health of the planet on the basis of satellite observations and other data from primary sources.

Through the application of predictive models, the “Forestry Analyzer” is also able to predict what will happen, for example, in the next ten years if no action is taken, representing a crucial support tool for political decision makers when planning projects to combat deforestation and forest degradation.

Research partners

  • IFAB
  • Hesplora

For further information, please contact:

Sustainable Development Goals

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