Featured projects

We’re working now to help guide investments in conservation, restoration & land management by mapping wildfire risk, tree mortality, timber harvests & critical species habitat across California. And we’re scaling our efforts beyond the state—contact us to learn how we can help map your environment.

Index


The California Forest Observatory

Wildfires are considered natural disasters when they impact communities, but there’s nothing natural about the recent megafires in California: climate-driven drought, fire suppression, and rapid urban development have created this catastrophe.

Unfortunately, we have few preventative tools—existing wildfire risk maps are some combination of outdated, inaccurate, or inaccessible. Even worse, we lack a basic understanding of many forest properties, weather conditions, and wildfire behavior that leave communities underprepared and vulnerable, and put our valuable forests at enormous risk.

To address this critical gap, we’re building the core of a continuously updated wildfire risk mapping system, initially for the state of California, to facilitate forest restoration and reduce the likelihood of tragic wildfires. This effort will employ cutting-edge satellite imagery and AI tools to map hazards and risk in unprecedented detail, delivered via a platform to enable the planning and execution of short- and long-term strategies to tackle the complexities of wildfire.

In emergencies, we plan to use this information to help design dynamic evacuation plans and facilitate rapid firefighting response. During periods of low risk, the same platform can be used to improve forest management, reduce hazardous fuel loads & improve ecological function. These efforts need to be able to scale from the tree level up to the state level. Centralized data and analytics from the Observatory will be critical for designing and implementing these strategies.

This project is a partnership between Salo, Planet & Vibrant Planet, and is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Goals

  • Produce high-resolution, accurate spatial data on forest structure, function, and change
  • Integrate these vegetation layers with weather and climate data to produce dynamically updated wildfire risk data

Outcomes

  • Improved data on forest structure and wildfire risk for California
  • A platform designed for agency personnel involved in wildfire mitigation and forest restoration planning
  • Engagement of key stakeholders throughout the design and build process to ensure optimal structure and uptake of the platform and its derivative products
  • Free access to the data and platform for key stakeholders conducting wildfire research

For more information, contact info@salo.ai


Identifying tree mortality

Severe pest and drought-driven mortality have taken a dramatic toll on the forests of the Sierras.
Over 100 million trees have died in the past 20 years to pests and drought, exacerbating current environmental stresses the forest, which are expected to lead to increased wildfire risk. A preventative, targeted approach to dead tree removal could reduce the potential economic and environmental costs of these increasingly severe wildfires.

But firefighters and forest managers have to focus on fighting fires today, limiting opportunities to take precautionary measures. A new approach to mortality mapping based on targeted, actionable & accessible data will be required to transform forest management in this arena.

By improving how we map and monitor tree mortality, we seek to improve sustainable harvesting practices and reduce future wildfire risk across the state of California. Soon, we plan to scale our mapping operations elsewhere.

This project is funded by the USDA's Small Business Innovation and Research program. Read more about the origin of this project or about our field work. If you're interesting in learning more about our mortality mapping system, or need maps for your organization, get in touch.


Monitoring forest harvest and restoration

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.

For more information, contact info@salo.ai


Predicting spotted owl habitat

Habitat loss, driven by the clearing of old forests, led to the California spotted owl's listing as a threatened species.
Large trees provide critical habitat for many wildlife species, including the California spotted owl. Protected since 1990 by the Endangered Species Act, we need mapping tools to guide protection for both the owls and the forests that support them. Unfortunately, current approaches to high-fidelity habitat mapping are both costly and time-consuming.

Using Salo's mapping technology, and building on the projects above, we're developing a dynamic habitat mapping system based high resolution data on forest structure and topography. Our hope is that, with better predictions of the state and future of forest structure across the state, we'll be able to effectively conserve habitat for this iconic, endemic species.

To see a demo of this product, or to begin mapping habitat in your region, get in touch.