Satellites vs. Lidar for Forestry Management?

Traditionally, monitoring and managing large forests has been a very costly and labour-intensive activity; involving ground teams to walk and observe a representative sample of forest. In recent years however, two new forms of forest analysis have emerged: Lidar and Satellites. Each offers new levels of data and insight not previously available to forest owners, but each with different characteristics.

Understanding the features of each method is crucial to identifying how and when to apply them to best effect.

In this blog post we look to unravel the two technologies to help foresters to gain a deeper understanding of both.

Lidar Data

Lidar (light detection and ranging) is an optical remote-sensing technique that uses laser light to examine the surface of the earth. Benefits of Lidar data include having high accuracy and good detail, however there are several drawbacks. Firstly, due to the labour-intensive process of collecting the data the costs are very high, this would typically include aircraft, employment costs and equipment. Then the price of obtaining the Lidar data isn’t the only thing you’ll have to pay for… The data will have to be processed by a highly skilled analyst and presented in a way that’s understandable showing the commercially important insights that were gathered.

Another disadvantage of Lidar is the gap between data updates, which can often be 5 – 10 years. By the time you’ve got your set of data, paid for someone to analyse it and are ready to use it, it could be out of date and your forest could look completely different. There could have been an infestation of beetles, or even fire damage! You’ll then have to wait up to 10 years to go through the whole process again and recapture a new set of data.

Realistically Lidar is only used to look at a portion of the forest, rather than a tool to manage the entire forest.

Satellite Data

Satellites can provide both optical and radar data across your entire forest. The refresh rates are also much higher with satellites typically passing overhead every week (cloud cover permitting). This frequency of monitoring allows for a much faster response to events, as well as temporal analysis – monitoring change over time.

The combination of both optical and radar data also affords a much wider range of applications. For example, you can determine tree species, mensuration and health analysis. The continuous management of forests using such up-to-date information means there are fewer chances to miss environmental and health changes. This can play an important factor in ensuring insurance claims are valid, by detecting things like fire and storm damage much quicker.

Satellite data has other advantages over Lidar; it is much less weather dependant as synthetic-aperture radar (a form of radar that is used to create two-dimensional images) can penetrate cloud cover, whatever the weather.

Image: Rezatec portal showing tree species distribution 

How to use this data?

Whichever method of gathering data you use, you’ll soon realise the biggest percentage of forest management costs arise from ground truthing, to make the data you’ve captured useful. With satellite data the need for ground-based manual data collection can now be minimised with the use of machine learning algorithms. This can reduce the amount of validation required and improve ground-based efficiency and targeting. So you only visit the relevant areas, hugely reducing costs.

Summary

Both Lidar and satellite data provide useful insights and can be used to complement each other. Rezatec’s GIS platform can incorporate Lidar as well as a number of other data sources, but satellite data is unique in its versatility, frequency of updates and ability to monitor very large areas.

By using earth observation satellite data, you get a continuous large-scale view of your forest. You can pair this with existing Lidar data you already have to enrich your view or use the satellite data as your stand-alone forestry management analytics.

Want to find out more? Download our guide: ‘Satellite-derived forestry intelligence’ or request a demo.

British Columbia Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society confirms successful completion of forest regrowth mapping project with Rezatec

Since March 2018, Rezatec has worked with British Columbia Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society (BC OGRIS) to map vegetation regrowth across a significant area of 80,000 km2 in NE British Columbia, Canada to support Caribou habitat restoration efforts.

Working with local partner Forsite, Rezatec has successfully demonstrated its geospatial data analytics in use as a cost-effective solution to support the assessment of vegetation regrowth along man-made features such as access roads, pipelines, legacy seismic lines, and well sites over very large areas. This capability provides an effective and affordable means to estimate vegetation regrowth at a landscape level – such as ground survey efforts – that have been prohibitive due to the size and remoteness of the areas of interest.

By applying its geospatial artificial intelligence technology, Rezatec has been able to model vegetation height across the 80,000 km2 target area. This can be used to provide detailed canopy information, showing major disturbances, vegetation patterns and larger linear clearings. Where this analysis identified canopy heights of less than five meters, it was used as an indicator that vegetation regrowth may be insufficient and restoration work may be required. This analysis has narrowed the area requiring detailed restoration assessment work in NE British Columbia, as well as provide a robust platform for estimating vegetation height across the whole area on a repeatable basis.

Dr. Steve Wilson, lead researcher for BC OGRIS’s boreal caribou research envelope, remarked, “Rezatec worked professionally and efficiently throughout the project and the data we have received as a result will help us identify areas to focus our restoration efforts. In addition, BC OGRIS will share the findings with its members and stakeholders as the model accuracy in the mid-height range is very encouraging as a tool for managing British Columbia’s natural resource land base.”

Cameron Brown, Strategic Planning Forester & Team Leader at Forsite commented: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Rezatec to provide repeatable, scalable and innovative forestry services to our clients using the application of Earth Observation data.”

Tim Vallings, Vice President of Global Resources, at Rezatec stated, “As a result of our project, we are very pleased to have provided BC OGRIS with a proven solution that can provide a quick and accurate quantitative assessment of forest areas that indicate successful versus insufficient regrowth. We are now looking at how we can apply other geospatial data products to benefit other parts of their operations”.

Rezatec aims to provide its estimated vegetation regrowth analytics to other areas in Canada where Caribou populations are being actively managed as well as looking at other indigenous species such as wolves and owls.

To learn more about this project or any of Rezatec’s services, please call +44 (0)1865 817 500.

Identifying Spruce Beetle infestations earlier using satellite data

Spruce Beetles have become an increasing threat to the forestry industry over recent decades. Outbreaks used to be episodic but are now at epidemic levels in many parts of the world.

Once an infestation is identified, it is a race against time to contain the outbreak and salvage affected timber before it loses its commercial value.

Rezatec, leading providers of geospatial data analytics for the forestry sector, have produced a guide: ‘Identify Spruce Beetle Infestations Earlier Using Satellite Data’, which examines how beetle infestation affects timber quality over time, the challenges of identifying infected trees using traditional methods, and how multi-spectral satellite data can help to identify affected stands before they lose much of their commercial value.

By assessing multi-spectral bands such as infra-red to measure more subtle indicators of plant health, infestation can be detected up to three months earlier than when using purely visual methods.

Tim Vallings, Vice President, Global Resources at Rezatec commented: “Identifying diseased trees as early as June allows foresters to validate, plan and fell in the same year, and thereby sell the timber as much as a year earlier than traditional methods allow to obtain a better market price.”

The key benefits of using satellite data to identify Spruce Beetle infestations are:

  • Regularly monitor subtle changes in tree health across entire forest
  • Identify outbreaks up to three months earlier
  • Salvage and sell timber up to one year earlier

Rezatec have produced a number of other guides relating to the application of satellite data for effective forest management including: tree species identification from space and a comparison of the benefits of satellite and lidar data for forestry analytics.

To learn more about how regularly updated satellite data could help you to better manage your forest or woodland, email info@rezatec.com or call +44 (0)1865 817500.

Funding

Rezatec completes follow-on investment led by Harbert European Growth Capital to underpin continued global expansion

World-leading geospatial data analytics company Rezatec has announced a follow-on investment to its 2018 £2m Seed Round equity financing round, with Harbert European Growth Capital now providing a substantial growth debt facility to the Company.  This new facility will lend additional financial support to Rezatec as it continues its rapid rate of new customer acquisition across North America, Africa and Asia Pacific. Rezatec is seeing particularly strong demand for its geospatial data analytics in the Forestry, Infrastructure and Water sectors worldwide. This financing round follows on from a financial year that saw Rezatec subscription revenues grow by 7x from Q1 FY18 to Q4 FY18.

Rezatec plans to significantly expand its portfolio of proprietary geospatial technologies in the coming months. This expansion of Rezatec data science, machine learning and software tools will serve to meet new customer demand in existing vertical markets and beyond. The Company anticipates completing a substantial Series A transaction in the period ahead to finance this expansion of the business and its operations.

Patrick Newton, Chief Executive Officer at Rezatec stated, “We are very pleased to have secured the support of Harbert in building the Rezatec business. Their focus on high growth, innovative technology companies makes them an ideal fit for our business.”

Fahad Khan, Vice President at Harbert European Growth Capital said “We are delighted to partner with Rezatec’s strong management team and give them a global network in addition to capital to help support their growth ambitions. We are pleased to bring our close relationships within the European and American technology sector and welcome Rezatec to a portfolio of over 70 high growth companies”.

Rezatec delivers accurate, cost-efficient, highly valuable and scalable satellite data analytics to optimise the use of natural and man-made assets in the Forestry, Water, Agriculture and Infrastructure sectors.

Tree species mapping from space – it’s revolutionary!

Whether you’re the owner of a small private woodland or a forestry company responsible for millions of acres, Rezatec have created a free, useful guide on identifying and mapping tree species distribution.

Understanding what tree species you have and where they are is critical for effective forest management and commercial decision-making. The ‘Earth Observation for Tree Species Mapping’ guide, available here, explores the common challenges of identifying species using traditional aerial technologies and how satellite data can be used to quickly, accurately and cost-effectively identify and map tree species distribution.

Tim Vallings, Vice President, Global Resources at Rezatec commented:  “It shows you what’s going on in the entire forest, not just small parts of it, giving you a complete and accurate picture of tree species and their location.”

Rezatec presents the data in an online portal which makes it easy to understand for any stakeholder as well as taking the risk out of commercial ventures and supporting informed business decisions.

Tree species identification from satellite data requires calibration plots of less than 1 per 100 acres. Compared to other methods, this represents a significant saving in operational time and money.

The key benefits of using satellite data in tree species mapping are:

  • Savings of up to 80% in operational expenditure,
  • Refreshes up to every week,
  • Tree species accuracy up to 90%

So far, Rezatec have mapped tree species distribution to meet a variety of requirements across an expanding list of locations around the world, including the UK, US, Europe, Canada and Australia. Their robust methodology enables an ever-growing number of species to be classified with 80 to 90% accuracy, supporting informed commercial decisions. Rezatec can apply confidence limits for risk assessment, and as a result can create data suitable for a range of users.

To find out more about how your business could benefit from the detailed tree species insights they can provide using earth observation data contact Rezatec on +44 (0)1865 817500 or email info@rezatec.com . In the meantime, you could also learn more by reading their case studies on forested asset decision support and forest mapping in British Columbia.

Rezatec and Eden Project partnership secures ESA funding to promote benefits of Earth Observation (EO) data for small-scale land owners.

Global leaders in geospatial data analytics, Rezatec, working in partnership with the Eden Project, an educational charity, have successfully been awarded funding from the European Space Agency’s Business Applications to demonstrate the benefits of Earth Observational data as part of a major public exhibition.

Invisible Worlds, a new permanent exhibition at the Eden Project, introduces the interconnectedness of life and the Earth’s varied environments at all scales, exploring how life shapes, and is shaped by, an invisible ‘Life Support System’. The joint activity involves the curation of an area within the exhibition, dedicated to the impact of geospatial analytics. The exhibition aims to highlight how the interpretation of Earth Observation data can provide innovative and alternative landscape intelligence, with a particular focus on forests and agricultural land.

“Eden is pleased to be working with Rezatec and this project will serve as a great opportunity to bring the good work that is being done by ESA and Rezatec to the forefront of public consciousness. The exhibit will serve as a great shop window and has the potential to inspire further action both commercially and within the public sector.” explained Gabriella Gilkes, Project Lead, The Eden Project.

“Rezatec is really excited to be working with such an inspirational organisation as the Eden Project made possible through funding from ESA’s Business Applications. Satellite-derived data analytics is highly relevant to addressing global challenges in response to increasing demands being placed on land and its efficient use, which are being fuelled by growing populations, water and food security challenges and more efficient natural resource management,” commented Tim Vallings, VP Global Resources, Rezatec.

Rezatec and the Eden Project, drawing upon their respective areas of expertise, will explore how the analytics generated for the exhibit could benefit individual growers or forest owners with small areas under management, by providing commercially valuable and actionable decision support tools accessed via a self-service, digital platform. In addition, these analytics could also be provided as an operational service to other creative installations at relevant institutions and organisations around the world.

To find out more about the Invisible Worlds exhibition at the Eden Project, visit: https://www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-here/invisible-worlds-exhibition.

rezatec

Rezatec extends its global reach into Canada with its geospatial data analytics for the forestry sector

Rezatec, the leading provider of geospatial data analytics to the Forestry sector, today announced that it is to provide its forestry attribute data products to the BC Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society (BC OGRIS), the not-for-profit society enabling research to inform environmental matters related to oil and gas exploration and development in British Columbia.

In the area of interest, there is an extensive history of anthropogenic disturbance, particularly from oil & gas and forestry activities. Knowledge of the state of vegetation regrowth on features such as seismic lines, abandoned pipeline corridors, roads and well pads is required to prioritise restoration treatments where the rate of regeneration is currently insufficient.

Working closely with local partner Forsite, a leading provider of forest management services to government and industry in Canada, Rezatec will map the estimated tree height and density of canopy cover across a vast study area of over 80,000 km2.  The resulting map will cover all anthropogenic features of interest and also the surrounding forest to provide a comparative reference of regeneration status. Existing methods to estimate regrowth in this area have provided only a coarse classification of regeneration status; the Rezatec approach will provide greater detail while also establishing a repeatable method that can be used to refresh the inventory in future years.

Rezatec algorithms process optical and radar satellite data with ground-based sensor data to deliver predictive and dynamic monitoring analysis to its customers.  Access to data is provided via an annual subscription model and Rezatec’s automated and scalable products deliver substantial payback for customers across areas of interest that range in size from a square mile to millions of acres.

A BG OGRIS spokesperson said, “The joint industry-BC government research team funded by BC OGRIS are keen to utilize the latest in satellite derived intelligence to understand the state of vegetation recovery on disturbed sites in northern BC. This technology has the potential to focus our restoration efforts and ensure investments achieve maximum benefit to caribou habitat.”

Cameron Brown, Strategic Planning Forester & Team Leader at Forsite commented: “Forsite is really excited about the innovative capabilities that satellite data can now provide to the forestry sector and with Rezatec as our partner, we can enable our clients to be more productive, more efficient and more profitable.”

“Rezatec is now the world’s number one provider of geospatial data analytics to the forestry sector and our expansion into Canada continues to support our growth and industry proven tools”, stated Tim Vallings, Vice President of Global Resources, at Rezatec.

In the forestry sector, Rezatec also provides geospatial data services for species identification mapping, mensuration and forest inventory management, forest health monitoring and wind blow mapping. Rezatec users also include major utilities, agribusinesses, large forestry groups, consulting partners and governments worldwide.

forestry disease

Understanding large-scale plant health. Rezatec analyses satellite data to map tree species and disease in large forested areas.

By developing pioneering data analysis techniques and machine learning algorithms, Rezatec is now able to produce powerful analytical insights for owners and managers of the world’s forests.

Rezatec analyses earth observation data and imagery to provide scalable, accurate and regularly updated forest landscape intelligence. Rezatec provides a level of insight into forest assets that is not achievable or cost effective using other land surveying techniques such as Lidar and ground-based data gathering.

In one of the first projects of its kind, Rezatec is working with DEFRA and UK Space Agency to establish how common threats to forests can be detected and addressed to mitigate risk to valuable tree stock.

Through the Space Applications for Precision Plant Health Information, Response & Evaluation project, funded by the UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP), Rezatec successfully engaged with Defra’s Plant Health team to generate a common understanding of how Earth Observation technology can be used to address the challenges posed by tree pests and diseases.

“Rezatec’s ability to map ash and oak at remarkable high-levels of accuracy has been an outstanding achievement which has not only raised awareness of potential future applications of EO within Defra but which could also potentially revolutionise Defra’s response to quarantine pests and diseases in the wider environment.” Defra Plant Health

Rezatec is also working closely with Forestry Corporation New South Wales (FCNSW) in Australia to enrich their existing forestry datasets with derived tree type mapping to help them comprehensively understand their forested land assets and support strategic decision making.

“Forestry Corporation NSW manages 2.2 million hectares of State forest across New South Wales. Remotely sensed data is an important forest management tool and combining this with accurately located plot information provides an opportunity to add value to this data. Given the complexity of eucalypt forest this is a difficult task. But FCNSW is watching, with interest, the modelling approach being trialled by Rezatec, and has provided plot data to assist with the model development phase, which is an important first step in getting cost effective, current and consistent information about the forest estate” Mike Sutton, Manager, Forest Information and Planning at FCNSW.

Delivered via a subscription-based, interactive and dynamically updated online portal, Rezatec’s geospatial forestry intelligence products include Species Mapping, Mensuration, Health, Disturbance, Carbon & Biomass Stock & Flux, Windblow and Fire & Habitat Connectivity.

Forest Data Analytics

Rezatec wins SSGP funding to further develop geospatial analytics to evaluate plant health in UK

Rezatec, leading geospatial data analysts, has recently been awarded Phase II funding for the development of geo-spatial big data analytics products that can identify and monitor plant health on a large scale. The funding from the Space for Smarter Government Programme (via the UK Space Agency), is the result of a competitive application process through Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), following an initial feasibility project (Phase I) to ensure the commercial value of the products and services under development by Rezatec.

Phase I of this project, known as SAPPHIRE (Space Applications for Precision Plant Health Information, Response and Evaluation), involved Rezatec working with Forest Research (the research agency of the Forestry Commission) to explore the feasibility of differentiating tree species using their typical annual phenological pattern.

The Phase I project focussed on mapping the distribution of different broadleaved species within selected study sites that are affected by forest pests and diseases. Rezatec utilised various Earth Observation (EO) sensors (e.g. Sentinel 1 C-band SAR, Sentinel 2 multi-spectral sensor and Landsat 8) to map the distribution and abundance of these species. These EO data sets were complemented with already available ground-based and accessory data (e.g. LiDAR and National Forest Inventory), provided by Forest Research, and integrated using data mining approaches that included random forest classifiers, statistical clustering methods and post-processing classification algorithms.

The results of SAPPHIRE Phase I were excellent. Maps of tree species achieved a minimum classification accuracy of 80%. Rezatec also developed indicators of broadleaved tree phenology to provide baseline information to detect anomalous measures of plant stress that might be associated with forest pathogens.

Following the success of Phase I, Rezatec is continuing its collaboration with Forest Research, to create a series of data products that can identify and classify an expanded set of tree species and their typical annual phenological pattern with specific focus on:

  • identifying limiting issues with optical capabilities and applying radar data to help differentiate different tree species and identify their distribution, for example in linear features such as trees lining roads or rail lines;
  • validating identified areas of tree stress against known scenarios and discounting them against false positives, saving time and cost for the end users of the products; and,
  • employing Sentinel 1 data sets to demonstrate the effective capability of SAR data in monitoring tree phenology, using standard EO multi-spectral imagery to complement the SAR imagery via data fusion techniques.

“Using satellite data to enable more efficient tree-health mapping and assessment holds great promise for landowners in both the public and private sectors, in the UK and abroad,” commented Alison Melvin, Business Development Manager at Forest Research.

“With Phase I of this project we demonstrated the feasibility and commercial potential of using satellite data analytics to provide real insight to the forestry sector whilst delivering previously unseen efficiencies. Now we are looking forward to finalising the development of our forestry data products and bringing this valuable information to market,” said Tim Vallings, Head of Forestry, Rezatec.

The results of Phase II will be market-ready data products that allow users to understand tree species distribution, tree health, tree mensuration (height, count and volume) and tree windblow damage for any area or forest stand. All of these products will be accessible via Rezatec’s subscription-based geospatial data web portal.

Rezatec and John Clegg, a leading provider of forest asset valuation services in the United Kingdom, are jointly presenting the data products developed under the SAPPHIRE programme at APF 2016, the UK’s largest forestry exhibition. John Clegg’s professional services expertise will be complemented by Rezatec’s technology as these new data products come to market.

“Rezatec has proven the commercial applications of Earth Observation data analytics in forestry and we’re impressed with the potential cost savings and accuracy of the data products versus traditional techniques,” observed Mike Tustin, Partner, John Clegg and Co.

Rezatec are launching these new forestry plant health data products to market in 2017 with a preview available at the APF Forestry Exhibition 15/09/2016. http://www.apfexhibition.co.uk/

About Space for Smarter Government Programme

SSGP is an exciting and challenging programme operating to educate and inspire public sector to the multiple uses of satellite applications and data as well as dispel the myths that space is too costly, too technical too difficult to understand. http://spaceforsmartergovernment.uk/

About the Small Business Research Initiative.

Supported by Innovate UK, SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) enables the public sector to tap into new ideas and technologies and speeds up their adoption. It helps government departments connect with innovative businesses to solve the tough challenges facing the public sector. https://sbri.innovateuk.org/

Rezatec’s plant health SSGP project with Forest Health featured on Defra Digital blog

Rezatec’s project in collaboration with Forest Research under the UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP) featured on the Defra Digital blog: Satellite data in Defra: collaboration, innovation and leading the way.

The project aimed to respond to difficulties associated with obtaining accurate tree distribution by species, especially broadleaf species, and to address the lack of contemporary data of tree species distribution and
abundance needed to predict the progression of forest pathogens.