Using AI, satellites, and lasers to map the planet’s trees

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Spotted: Deforestation alone accounts for around 10 per cent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and without dedicated efforts to protect and replenish degraded land, almost 70 more gigatonnes of carbon could be emitted by 2050. Now, a team of scientists and engineers is building the world’s largest, and only global, dataset on trees. By providing a map of every tree on the planet, the CTrees database provides an accurate tracker of carbon sequestration efforts, reforestation, and degradation. At the national level, the information helps countries prove they are meeting their Paris Agreement goals for carbon emissions reductions.

Using a combination of high-resolution satellite imagery, AI, and LiDAR, CTrees is mapping all trees both inside and outside forests. Tracking changes in forests is crucial, yet the focus on those areas sometimes hides the volume of trees that are located elsewhere. For instance, CTrees’ analysis revealed that one-third of Africa’s trees are outside areas officially classified as forests. As such, they were not counted when tallies of the continent’s carbon sinks were originally made, which overlooked more than 54 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent that the trees held.

With data from the early 2000s as a baseline, the open-source platform tracks changes over time, allowing policymakers to monitor the effectiveness of various environmental plans. Data is downloadable, and the company has recently released datasets at the national and jurisdiction level.

Project-level tracking and UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) activity reports are planned for release in mid-2023, pending further growth of personnel within the company. Tree-level forest carbon data, as part of a global report, is also planned for release in 2024.

Springwise has spotted multiple other innovations contributing to reforestation efforts, including urban reforestation in France, and drones replanting forests in Australia.

Written By: Keely Khoury



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