Scientists aid forest protection project

University researchers are to provide expertise in a prominent international project to protect the world’s tropical forests.

The Forests 2020 project, worth more than £14 million in total, is funded by the UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme.

Forests 2020 is led by Edinburgh-based sustainability software and data company Ecometrica, who will collaborate with experts from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leicester.

Also taking part is University of Edinburgh spin-out company Carbomap, which specialises in LiDAR forest mapping – a remote sensing method that uses light to measure variable distances to the Earth.

Global partnership

The consortium will also involve partners in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico.

Earth Observation laboratories will be set up in these regions to assess threats to 300 million hectares of tropical rainforests and direct conservation resources.

This will be achieved by improving the capacity of local partners and stakeholders to implement effective forest and ecosystem monitoring services.

The result will help safeguard environments which would most likely be lost without intervention.

The project is due to complete in March 2020.  

This project reflects the close academic-industry relationship that has been fostered between the School of GeoSciences and Ecometrica. It directly builds upon our collaboration to roll out access to Ecometrica’s EOLabs platform at the University and also the licensing of Sentinel-1 satellite data processing technology developed at the University with support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Stuart SimmonsSchool of GeoSciences

This is a great result for the University and demonstrates the value of Edinburgh’s world-leading expertise in remote sensing to industry partners, and also in delivering huge environmental benefits. It is particularly pleasing that the project is led by colleagues at Ecometrica – the company’s longstanding relationship with ERI and the University stretches back to 2008 when the newly founded venture was supported via ERI’s Edinburgh Pre-Incubator Scheme.

Ian SharpEdinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI)

We all know how important tropical rainforests are to the survival of the global ecosystem, but most people are only just waking up to the fact that we need to use technology to make sure conservation efforts are effective and properly directed. The Earth Observation platforms will ensure threats such as fires and illegal logging are detected sooner, and make the response on the ground faster and more cost effective.

Dr Richard TipperExecutive Chairman, Ecometrica