With their ability to absorb up to one third of all greenhouse gas emissions, trees play an essential role in the ongoing fight against climate change. Yet, according to data published by Global Forest Watch, the world’s tropical rainforests disappeared at a rate of one football pitch every six seconds in 2019.

That’s why the protection of tropical forests has long been a cornerstone of climate change policy, and an integral part of the 2016 Paris Climate Change agreement. Yet the very speed and scale at which deforestation can occur has traditionally made it extremely difficult to monitor and prevent.

Starting back in the 1970s, with NASA’s Landsat missions, satellite imagery is one tool that’s been used to try to monitor, understand and fight deforestation for decades. However, traditional limitations in terms of the frequency and resolution of those images has previously restricted their effectiveness – too often the trees were gone before anyone had time to realise, let alone act.

But that’s changing, as new satellite technology, from the likes of leading satellite image provider Planet, have ushered in an explosion of remotely sensed earth observation data at much higher spatial and temporal resolutions. Landsat satellite images offered a image resolution of around 30 meters with very low revisit rates; in comparison, Planet’s satellite data provides 3.5-5 meter pixel resolution, monthly updates and global coverage.

By plugging the relevant satellite data into SEPAL, a cloud-based analysis platform developed by the FAO to better track deforestation and land use, each country had a clear set of tools to track how they are progressing in their efforts to achieve their specific emissions targets, set under the UN’s Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme.

Read the full article about deforestation by Nick Measures at Eco-Business.