Earth Observation to Enhance Forest Certification

Short Description

Problems & motivation

The sustainable management of forests is one of the central issues addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The certification of wood products aims to promote sustainable and ecological forest management by empowering consumers to identify and purchase ecologically produced wood products.

About 10% of the global forest area is currently certified under the two major labels FSC and PEFC. Unfortunately, illegally felled wood is also repeatedly placed on the market as certified wood. The main reason for this is that certification is usually based on a predominantly document-based review of the forest management plan and process chains. For logistical and financial reasons, on-site inspections and ecological assessments of logging activities take place only sporadically.

The current evaluation systems are thus prone to errors and fraud. While it is possible to analyse logging activities by satellite remote sensing, this is not done at present. In this project, we will merge a satellite-based forest monitoring system and an innovative GPS-based round wood tracking system to offer more efficient, cost-effective and reliable verification tools for sustainable forest certification.

Goals & innovation

The goal of the project is to develop a web-based prototype for a forest monitoring system that records legal and illegal logging within and around certified forest areas and is operated as an on-demand and globally available service. An innovative research focus is to improve the detection of "selective logging", where only single trees are felled, and to assess accurate forest biomass from VHR stereo data.

The system is mainly based on the Copernicus missions Sentinel-1 and -2 and combines Analysis Ready Data Sets from Sentinel Hub with newly developed stochastic time series models of Joanneum Research to enable innovative global on-demand processing. We integrate the different EO components at the Euro Data Cube, an EO marketplace in the ESA Network of Resources (NoR) that intends to facilitate a simplified and efficient exploitation of EO data in cloud environments.

In addition, a novel tracking system for round wood (Beetle ForTech) is being tested, which stores the exact GPS position of a tree before it is felled in a secure and traceable way. The EO and the GPS-tracking components will be merged in an integrative module to provide robust data for the tracking of timber, for detecting illegal logging activities and for assessing the environmental impact of forest management activities at the origin. Such combined system and on-demand service offers innovative, cost-effective and reliable verification tools for sustainable forest certification.

Results & exploitation potential

The services and products developed in the project are of great relevance for the improvement of sustainable forest management as is demanded by the SDG 13 "Climate Change" and SDG 15 "Life on Land".

Certification bodies can use the services to better verify reported timber harvests and to detect illegal and unreported logging activities. This can also be done for remote forest regions that cannot be verified on site for logistical reasons.

Forest owners can check whether the timber was really felled in the designated areas. The potential use cases are very diverse, cover different user groups and offer great market opportunities. Scientific results will be presented at forest conferences and peer-reviewed journals.

Project Partners


JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH

Project partner

  • Beetle For Tech
  • Sentinel Hub VAS GmbH

Contact Address

JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH
Mag. Janik Deutscher
Steyrergasse 17
A-8010 Graz