Using remote sensing to increase access to sustainable forest management information
Having freely accessible and up-to-date spatial information on forests will have significant benefits for forest certification.
The data can be used as an additional tool to ensure the compliance of forest owners, for example, enabling auditors to preview the forest area before beginning the audit, ensuring they sample the most representative section of forest.
Furthermore, by acquiring precise information on changes in forest ecosystems, the criteria and indicators of national forest certification systems can be altered to reflect the changing conditions.
While there will always be a critical role for field audits within the certification process, there is also clear potential in utilizing remote sensing technologies as an additional tool to ensure the compliance of forest owners and inform ongoing monitoring.
PEFC and Remote Sensing
The 2014 PEFC Collaboration Fund supported a project led by Forgis Oy to develop an online platform to monitor the sustainable management of forests in Finland. The project also assessed the potential of utilizing remote sensing to monitor compliance of certification requirements within the forest.
An expert analysis of the forest management requirements of the Finnish Certification System found four (17%) of the criteria could be evaluated using remote sensing. Importantly, these four are the most complicated for reliable verification in the field, with their evaluation usually based on sampling.
However, by using remote sensing, auditors could evaluate the entire certified area – something that would be prohibitively expensive to do through field audits. In addition, it saves considerable time during the audit process, increases the transparency of certification and ensures the tracking of all the most-sensitive forest management operations.
This analysis was only possible thanks to the development of an online platform that interprets satellite imagery and monitors forest change. Over time, the platform could support stakeholders to analyze the change in forest management within Finland. In the long term, opportunities exist to roll out the use of this platform or others, in additional countries.