Below is an overview of our current projects. We’re working now to map wildfire risk, tree mortality & timber harvests across California to help guide prescribed burns and targeted forest thinning operations. We plan to scale our efforts beyond California—please connect with us if you’re interested in learning more.
Focus on California
California’s forests are experiencing severe stress from drought, heat, fires & pest outbreaks. The state’s legacy of fire is well-known, and the frequency & intensity of fires is expected to increase with climate change. And this legacy is well-mapped—we know where, when & how long fires burn here.
But fire is one of many drivers of change in California’s forests. New threats have emerged in our new climate—pest and drought-driven mortality have killed over 100 million trees in the past 20 years. And an old threat persists—timber harvests continue en-masse in the few healthy forests remaining.
The extents of mortality and timber harvest are comparable to the extent of fires, yet their impacts are not well mapped. Pest mortality is difficult to identify, and timber harvests are all self-reported by industry. To better conserve its forests, California needs better data, and better tools, to quantify and map these threats. Salo has developed two high resolution monitoring products to address these needs: maps of tree mortality, and maps of forest harvests.
Monitoring tree mortality
The recent increase in mortality is expected to exacerbate the existing drought stress in California, leading to increased fire severity. A preventative, targeted approach to dead tree removal could reduce the economic and environmental costs of severe fires.
Unfortunately, the agencies protecting our forests are stressed; they have to focus on fighting fires today, which limits the resources available for adapting to change. A new approach to mortality mapping based on targeted, actionable & accessible data will be required to transform forest management.
To address this gap, Salo is developing the scientific and technical capacity to comprehensively map and monitor tree mortality statewide. We are coordinating with government agencies and conservation groups to reduce future wildfire risk, improve sustainable harvesting practices & design coordinated wildfire and emissions reduction strategies. After completing the work for California, we plan to scale our mortality monitoring operations outside the state.
You can read more about the origin of this project, and an update on our field work. If you are interesting in learning more about our mortality mapping system, or need tree mortality maps for your organization, please connect with us.
Monitoring forest harvests & disturbance
The rate of climate change is accelerating, and policymakers are looking to identify new emissions mitigation strategies—strategies that go beyond reducing energy and transportation emissions. Natural climate solutions, which rely on carbon sequestration in 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 forests making up the bulk of this potential. These reductions will come from further regulating commercial timber harvests, which are the primary source of forest emissions for several states. In California, timber harvest emissions are comparable with wildfire emissions.
Reducing emissions through improved harvest management is now a key mitigation strategy for several states. Yet the capacity to measure and monitor these harvests remains limited—management agencies rely on coarse, self-reported data and limited spot-checks. To address this gap, Salo has a high frequency, high resolution forest harvest monitoring system using custom analytics. This will support efforts to prioritize natural climate solutions through identifying where illegal harvests occur and monitoring the effectiveness of natural emissions reductions.