Spaceborne Earth Observation

Spaceborne mapping and monitoring in forest management

Spaceborne EO (© © FSC A.C./ Milan Reška)© © FSC A.C./ Milan ReškaThe project, funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Value Adding Element program, aims to develop Earth Observation (EO) services to support the FSC certification process.

For this purpose the project will demonstrate a portfolio of validated spaceborne EO services on responsibly managed natural forests and plantations. Part of these EO services will be the estimation of forest biophysical characteristics such as tree height and diameter at breast height, using radar EO sensors. The demonstration of mapping and monitoring will be carried out together with FSC Members in the boreal (Mondi Syktyvkar in Russia), temperate natural forest (Holmen Skog in Sweden) and sub tropical plantations (Sappi in South Africa).

A key development will be an Open Source software that will facilitate visualization of remote sensed maps and the extraction and integration of data with forest management information systems. This “Forest Management Toolkit” will be used in the three project areas.

Visit the Forest Management Toolkit website.


The project follows two earlier ESA sponsored projects, done in conjunction with FSC, which laid the foundation for this project. The first, in 2005-2007, involved a market survey to establish the need for new and improved geospatial data sources in forestry management and certification and included several demonstration trials carried out in the Congo (CIB), Brazil (Orsa do Brazil) and South Africa (York Timbers). Based on the output of this project, ESA sponsored a project in 2009 which, for the first time, successfully demonstrated the measurement of the key biophysical characteristics in even age plantations. This enabled estimation of timber volume at compartment level across the whole FMU at a single point in time.

Project objectives

The primary objective is to evaluate how this technology could improve the quality of the data used in the certification process by establishing:

  • Can spaceborne EO services be a reliable and cost effective source of key geospatial data required in forest certification? Could it support or replace existing data sources?
  • Does this technology also provide forest management with an independent source of accurate and reliable information that improves forest management and certification?
  • Are there some forests environments where the benefits of EO might be more obvious (e.g. mega-forest operations or plantations)?
  • Could the Forest Management Toolkit aid the uptake of the technology across FSC certificate holders by simplifying data visualisation, data extraction and reporting?
  • Could this type of service support other strategic objectives of the FSC (e.g. ecosystem services)?

Expected Outcomes

The key outcomes are:

  • Improve the quality of mapping and monitoring in forest management and certification
  • Make certification data and the process more accessible and transparent to stakeholders
  • Add rigour and discipline to the certification process by standardising the range and quality of information submitted to CBs
  • Reduce costs of certification by improving the efficiency of CBs in the audit process

Get involved!

  • Complete a survey on current operational practice across FSC certificate holders on forest data collection, use of EO systems and GIS. Please download the project survey which only takes a few minutes to complete. The survey will close on 20 November 2010. A review of the responses and data collected will be posted the following month.
  • Follow the project and provide active feedback from the perspective of your stakeholder group on this page.
  • Actively join in the assessment workshop at the FSC General Assembly in 2011.

You are invited to send views on project goals and outputs to:

  • FSC Contact – Hans Joachim Droste or +49 (228) 367 66 17 and Skype achim-droste
  • Project Manager - Charles Crosthwaite Eyre or +44 1264 356 900/+44 7730 304 290 and Skype charles.crosthwaite.eyre
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