Forest Monitoring from Space: A Major Milestone

September 27, 2017

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CEOS (the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites) coordinates space agency support to the data needs of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) (since 2011, SDCG for GFOI). This involves the development and implementation of complementary and systematic acquisition strategies for a suite of relevant Earth observation satellites to provide all countries with the data necessary for annual monitoring of their forests. This, in turn, supports those countries’ reports on related greenhouse gas emissions as part of their participation in the Paris Climate Agreement and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries – part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC,  since 2005).

As a result of this effort, we have now, for the first time ever, assured essential imagery coverage of the entire world’s forests.

 The core data streams underpinning this coordinated, multi-annual, global coverage of forests include:

  • the Landsat optical sensor series (USGS)
  • the Sentinel-1 radar series from the European Union Copernicus Programme (EU/ESA),
  • and the Sentinel-2 optical series (EU/ESA).

Further data contributions are provided by space agencies from Japan (JAXA), Brazil (INPE), China (CRESDA), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Canada (CSA), and Germany (DLR). We also anticipate that the space agencies of the UK and Argentina will add more useful datasets next year (from the NovaSAR and SAOCOM missions, respectively).

The continuity of program-planning for these core satellite data streams assures countries the necessary annual global coverage they need, starting in 2017 and through at least 2030, to use satellite data in their national forest monitoring and reporting systems. 

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites ensures international coordination of civil space-based Earth observation programs and promotes exchange of data to optimize societal benefit and inform decision-making for securing a prosperous and sustainable future for humankind. Its 60 Member and Associate Agencies include the space agencies sponsoring all the world’s major civil, Earth observing satellite programmes. 

The Global Forest Observations Initiative is a flagship of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) that aims to foster the sustained availability of observations for national forest monitoring systems; support governments that are establishing national systems by providing a platform for coordinating observations, providing guidance and assistance on utilising observations, developing accepted methods and protocols, and promoting ongoing research and development; and work with governments that report into international forest assessments – including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.