REDD+ Monitoring Services with Satellite Earth Observation - Community Forest Monitoring Pilot

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and policies over the next 15 years, were agreed in New York earlier this year. One of the 17 goals is to "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss". According to the Global Carbon Project, carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and other land-use change were 3.3 Gt carbon dioxide on average during 2004-2013, accounting for 8% of all emissions from human activity (fossil fuel, cement, land use change). There is a pressing need to support ongoing initiatives aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and participatory forest management strategies to reach sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

In the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international initiative "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation" (REDD+) aims to protect carbon stocks and biodiversity in threatened ecosystems around the world. Policy makers, financiers and scientists have identified the need for robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems and it has been recognised that satellite technology is the only way to regularly monitor the world's forests on the timescales required.

Within the context of REDD+, the University of Leicester is seeking to develop and demonstrate a prototype for a near-real-time forest cover change information service from Sentinel-1 and 2 satellite data that meets the relevant national forest definitions and is delivered directly in an easily accessible reporting format via a smartphone app to community forest associations and national agencies. Our initial focus is to address the management of tropical forests in Kenya, which has recently set out an ambitious climate change action plan. The service prototype will be delivered based on the University of Leicester's internationally renowned expertise in Earth Observation science in collaboration with a mobile technology developer in Kenya (UKALL Ltd).

Market research has been conducted via a NERC Pathfinder grant to assess the potential uptake of a global near-real-time deforestation information service from satellites, commercialising the research results from the NERC CORSAR grant. This study has indicated Kenya to be a likely customer. The annual cost of climatic shocks to Kenya alone is estimated at US$ 0.5 billion (2% of GDP). If not addressed, climate change will hamper progress towards Kenya's aim of being a middle income country by 2030.
A recent market visit has confirmed that Kenyan authorities have a huge interest in satellite enabled forest monitoring products/services delivered via a smartphone app with a variety of interested stakeholders, amongst which:
- Ministry of Environment and Kenyan Forest Services (National level)
- Community Forestry Associations (Local level)
- UNEP and UN FAO / REDD+ (International level)

Our objective is to develop a mobile app allowing customers in Kenya to access a near-real-time, detailed information about forest cover change for their local area of interest. The accessible provision of this service has real value at the local scale as well as the national scale. To unlock the considerable potential for this service and commercialise our know how, we will develop a prototype and demonstrate it in market. We aim to create a joint venture or spin out company in collaboration with identified commercial partners in the areas of satellite imagery and technology development.

Planned Impact

The project will deliver a prototype smartphone application using satellite data to produce near-real-time forest cover change mapping in order to address the practical challenges of forest monitoring and management in Kenya within the context of the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation initiative (REDD+) and commercial forest management.
The satellite mapping methods we intend to use at the core of this project are currently TRL 5 (technology validated in relevant environment) and will be developed to TRL 7 within the scope of this follow on fund (system prototype demonstration in operational environment).

We will work collaboratively with UKALL Ltd, a Kenyan mobile phone application development company based in Nairobi, to capitalise on their intimate market knowledge, expertise in trading in Kenya and to build on an existing mobile phone app that is at TRL 9 (actual system proven in operational environment).

The technical benefits of the product we intend to develop are:
- Improved accuracy compared to existing technology
- Cloud independency of the radar sensors
- Higher temporal resolution because of independency from daylight
- Timely access to forest cover change information for local communities, private forest owners and the Kenyan Forest Service via a smartphone app, in a country that is the 21st most connected population in the world with 99.9% of the 26.1 million internet users accessing internet through mobile data.

By focusing the initial stage of our prototype development at the scale of an area managed by a community forest association in Kenya, we will be supporting participatory forest management strategies to reach sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, and give a sense of ownership and responsibility to local indigenous communities. This in turn will allow the Kenya Forest Service and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to have timely insights on deforestation and forest degradation and have the means to establish a robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system based on cutting edge technology (use of satellite data and transmission to smartphone).

This will help the country in its REDD+ readiness strategy and will help demonstrate to UNEP and the international community not only the effort the country is currently undertaking but also the value of satellite enabled forest monitoring and its application via mobile application development, giving confidence to investors such as national governments (UK, Norway), Green Climate Fund, World bank or the private sector in supporting Kenya and its REDD+ Readiness strategy.

Once the prototype we will develop at the local community and national scale will have proved its robustness and efficiency and reached the fully operational stage, we aim at undertaking market engagement and promote the successful use of our service to some of the 29 tropical forest REDD+ countries and within the United Nations, UNEP and UN FAO.
Ultimately, by developing this innovative technology and applying it to the preservation of our worldwide forests, we will aim at playing a crucial role in forest preservation, bearing in mind that forests not only play a vital role in the fight against climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our times, but also provide essential ecosystem services such as health through disease regulation, livelihoods, water, food, nutrient cycling and climate security and contribute directly to the livelihoods of 90% of the 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty. Of these, there are an estimated 500 million forest dependent people, 200 million of whom are indigenous people.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have developed a prototype near-real-time forest cover change detection system, which automatically checks for new Sentinel-2 satellite data acquisitions and processes them to forest cover change maps. Forest cover change reports are then disseminated automatically for selected areas of interest to a mobile phone app. A central dashboard uses big data analytics to oversee all incoming reports.
Exploitation Route We will hold a user workshop to demonstrate the prototype to the Government of Kenya and the national REDD+ stakeholder group in Kenya in March 2017.
The prototype could also become part of the solutions being developed in the UK Space Agency Forests 2020 project, and the EASOS project.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy

 
Description The findings have been reported to the Kenya Forest Service with a view to evaluate their use in improving the use of satellite technology for forest monitoring there.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Identification and monitoring of deforestation in the pluvial Pacific Coast of Colombia. NEWTON Researcher Links Programme, Dr. Jesus Anaya Acevedo, Universidad de Medellin, Colombia
Amount £8,254 (GBP)
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description Space Enabled Monitoring of Illegal Gold Mining in Colombia
Amount £3,300,000 (GBP)
Organisation UK Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 04/2019
 
Description Strengthening Food Security through Integrated Earth Observations & Ecological Assessments of Ecosystem Services in Kenya
Amount £41,800 (GBP)
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Title Near-real-time Sentinel-2 deforestation monitoring service using mobile app technology 
Description Python software code to process Sentinel-2 data automatically and disseminate information products in near-real-time to mobile app users managed by a central dashboard. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The system will be demonstrated to users in due course. 
 
Description Collaboration with Government of Kenya 
Organisation Kenya Forest Service
Country Kenya 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Agreement with Cabinet Secretary for Environment to work together in October 2015. Presentation of research plans and ideas at a national REDD+ stakeholder meeting in April 2016. Training workshop on radar remote sensing held in Nairobi in 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of advice on forest monitoring in Kenya and the development of the national REDD+ strategy. Technical advice on monitoring development.
Impact Development of a prototype forest cover change monitoring service in near-real-time from Sentinel-2 at 10 m resolution, with reports being disseminated to mobile app users and a dashboard.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation Bahir Dar University
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation Kenya Forest Service
Country Kenya 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation Kenya Forestry Research Institute
Country Kenya 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation University of Gondar
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation University of Nairobi
Department Department of Geospatial and Space Technology
Country Kenya 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Earth Observation research for land-atmosphere services in DAC countries 
Organisation World Food Programme (Italy, Sudan, Senegal)
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, ODA Foundation Award, starting April 2017
Collaborator Contribution Research partnership to support the objectives of ODA in Ethiopia and Kenya
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Innovative application of remote sensing to Forestry management and monitoring 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the project "Earth Observation Data Integration Pilot, Research Project 9" we have developed methods for using Sentinel-1 satellite data for forest inventory updates in the UK.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of forest inventory data and airborne LiDAR data.
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
 
Description Kenya Forest Service 
Organisation Kenya Forest Service
Country Kenya 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Held workshops at the Kenya Forest Service with the National REDD+ stakeholder group and discussed how Earth Observation can be better used for forest monitoring in Kenya.
Collaborator Contribution Hosted the meeting and provided technical contributions and advice.
Impact Collaboration and further meetings.
Start Year 2015
 
Title Python software for near-real-time automated Sentinel 2 satellite data processing and information dissemination 
Description The software automatically checks for new satellite data acquisitions on the European Space Agency server. It then downloads the image and automatically checks it for any forest cover losses. Areas that have been deforested are flagged up in a report and immediately disseminated to the users via a mobile app, and reports include geographic coordinates, a map quicklook and the area of the deforestation. Users can report back to the dashboard using text, voice or photo messages. The dashboard uses big data analytics to keep an overview of all reports that have been received. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact No impacts as yet, but the software enables user organisations such as forestry commissions to monitor their national forest land in near-real-time and detect any illegal logging and other disturbances early enough to allow intervention. 
 
Description Stakeholder workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held a REDD+ stakeholder workshop chaired by Kenya's national REDD+ coordinator.
The workshop came up with user requirements for better forest monitoring from satellite data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk/news/blog/2016-archive/april/satellite-project-will-monitor-kenya2019s-forests-...
 
Description University of Leicester scientists to promote food security in Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Announcement of British Council funded workshop to be held in Kenya.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/departments/geography/newsevents/food-security-workshop