Directing tropical forest management from the sky

12th December 2014

Directing tropical forest management from the sky

Preventing the conversion of the world’s two billion hectares of degraded tropical forests to agriculture is a top conservation priority. This requires effective land allocations for conservation, restoration and the production of commodities to be made, which are dependent upon high quality forest survey data across extensive areas. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) make possible the acquisition of high resolution forest canopy images at relatively little cost but assessing forest quality from these images presents significant technical challenges. The project will develop the use of UAVs for forest survey work at the 100,000 hectare Harapan Rainforest ecosystem restoration concession in central Sumatra and at the Dakatcha Woodland in Kenya. These sites have been degraded through the extraction of forest products, especially large trees for timber, resulting in complex mosaics of forest at various stages of regeneration. Aerial imagery acquired from the sites will be analysed at the University of Cambridge, where recent advances in image recognition software will be refined. Mathematical techniques will be developed to enable automatic measurement of tree size and abundance, and identification of indicator species. Landscape scale maps of forest quality and restoration potential will then be produced. Land management decisions regarding where to carry out expensive restoration techniques, such as planting trees or removing invasive species, or where to establish income generating plantations will benefit enormously from this information. It is the aim of the project that by developing the software into a freely available open source package, it will become an indispensable tool for forest managers across the world, greatly aiding the conservation of degraded tropical forest.

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Indicators, monitoring and effectiveness
Start date: September 1, 2014
Status: Complete

Project team

CCI partners Involved

Other Organisations Involved

Harapan Rainforest

A Rocha International

Credits

Thumbnail: C.K. Coay via Flickr creative commons Banner: Michael Yuen via Flickr creative commons

Related Resources

Virtual Hutan Harapan – a flight over the forest

Virtual Hutan Harapan – a flight over the forest

A 3D model of the Kapas River at Hutan Harapan made using a low cost drone and structure from motion software. This video is an output of the CCI Collaborative Fund project “Directing tropical forest management from the sky“. 

Can UAVs be used to measure forest quality?

Can UAVs be used to measure forest quality?

In this online case study, published on the website of the conservation technology group WILDLABS.NET, Tom Swinfield explores the work undertaken in the collaborative project “Directing tropical forest management from the sky“, highlighting successes in measuring forest structure and noting the challenging but potentially hugely valuable prospect of automated species identification. 

Seeing through the trees

Seeing through the trees

A talk given by Tom Swinfield at the Autorestoration Workshop Forest Restoration Research Unit, in Thailand in October 2015.   

Above the trees below the leaves

Above the trees below the leaves

Presentation by Tom Swinfield to the RSPB Annual Science Meeting 2016. 

Conservation of Atewa Forest in Ghana

Conservation of Atewa Forest in Ghana

Presentation by Jeremy Lindsell to:  8 October 2015: 60 delegates on a West Africa regional workshop for the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ghana;   9 October 2016: 40 masters students at St Joseph’s College, Bangalore; and  18 November 2016: c 12 representatives of private sector industry organised by IUCN Ghana who operate in the Atewa catchment.

Open-source toolkit: methods for the use of UAVs in rapid forest quality assessment

Open-source toolkit: methods for the use of UAVs in rapid forest quality assessment

During the course of the project “Directing tropical forest management from the sky“, UAVs have exploded in their use but legal restrictions have also proliferated. The work undertaken as part of this project has been at the cutting edge of research and development and produced a number of new methods for the use of UAVs…

Accurate Measurement of Tropical Forest Canopy Heights and Aboveground Carbon Using Structure From Motion

Accurate Measurement of Tropical Forest Canopy Heights and Aboveground Carbon Using Structure From Motion

Unmanned aerial vehicles are increasingly used to monitor forests. Three-dimensional models of tropical rainforest canopies can be constructed from overlapping photos using Structure from Motion (SfM), but it is often impossible to map the ground elevation directly from such data because canopy gaps are rare in rainforests. Without knowledge of the terrain elevation, it is,…