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null Eyes in the Sky : Utilising RADARSAT-2 Technology for Forest Monitoring

Eyes in the Sky : Utilising RADARSAT-2 Technology for Forest Monitoring

With the growing awareness about the importance of forests and their protection, more businesses are adopting NDPE (No Deforestation, no Peat and no Exploitation) commitments. However, the demand for commercial land continues to increase, raising the pressure on forests. Forest protection cannot be achieved passively by ‘leaving the forest alone’. Instead, active management and protection presents the best way to save the forests.

Since 2017, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas, as one of the signatories of the New York Declaration on Forest (NYDF), stepped up its forest protection effort by developing the Forest Alert System (FAS). The FAS provides near-real time alerts on changes to natural forest cover across the protected areas within APP suppliers’ concession areas. This allows for quicker response by its forest protection teams, particularly in areas that are normally inaccessible and difficult to monitor using conventional methods.

The FAS, developed in partnership with MDA Corporation, utilizes the RADARSAT-2 satellite to detect not just large forest cover change, but also even subtle changes in tree removal, including selective logging activity. This is possible because the RADARSAT-2 has the highest imaging capacity of any Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) earth-observation missions, with high ground resolution of 5m/pixel and a huge coverage area.

The data captured by RADARSAT-2 is processed using an algorithm developed by MDA, delivering alert information in the form of polygons which indicate the area where forest cover change has been detected. These polygons are then sent to APP’s Forestry GIS server, where they are filtered and matched to protected areas, to ensure that alerts that fall in the area with good forest cover are being given priority for follow up.

Since implementing the FAS, APP has been able to significantly reduce the forest degradation in the protected areas of its suppliers’ concession areas from 5% annually in 2013 – 2015 to less than 0.5% annually in 2017 – 2019.

As part of its commitment for transparency, APP launched the Forest Monitoring Dashboard on 15th July 2020, as part of its newly revamped Sustainability Dashboard. The Forest Monitoring Dashboard will allow interested stakeholders to see the alerts, as well as the areas where the forest cover change is indicated to have taken place. This Forest Monitoring Dashboard and further technical specifications can be accessed at https://sustainability-dashboard.com/.

APP is currently working to have the Forest Monitoring Dashboard assessed by independent third-party, so stakeholders can have confidence in the accuracy and robustness of the system.

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