Monitoring Forest Harvests

In California, emissions from timber harvests are comparable to wildfire emissions.

The rate of climate change is accelerating, and policymakers are looking to identify alternative mitigation strategies that go beyond reducing energy and transportation emissions. Natural climate solutions—which rely on carbon sequestration by the biosphere—are the cheapest and most mature of these strategies. Changing how we use and manage land can yield nearly 40% of the emissions reductions needed to keep global temperatures under a safe limit, with improved forest stewardship making up the bulk of this potential.

Commercial timber harvests are a major source of land-based carbon emissions, and are the primary source for several states; harvest emissions are on par with wildfire emissions in California. Improving timber harvest management, including both legal and illegal harvests, is a central mitigation strategy for several states. Yet the capacity to measure and monitor these harvests—crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of these strategies—is severely underdeveloped.

To improve forest harvest maping, we're developing algorithms that combine high resolution optical and radar satellite data with spatially-explicit forest harvest data using a unique multi-temporal sampling design.

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