A nine-month feasibility project piloting commercial data services to improve sustainable peatland management has delivered successful results for Oxfordshire-based Rezatec.
Intact peatlands act as a huge store and sink of atmospheric carbon, as well as a source of drinking water, and an important habitat for many plants and animals. At an estimated 550 Gigatonnes of Carbon (GtC), peat sequesters more than twice the carbon stock of forests worldwide. However, tropical and temperate zone wetland ecosystems, are under threat from drainage and landscape conversion.
Co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), ‘Peat Spotter’ is a data service designed to enable accurate, cost-effective methods for identifying the location of peatlands in line with international standards quantifying their intactness and assessing their carbon content. Combining Earth Observation imagery with airborne and ground instrument inputs, Rezatec delivers a globally-applicable set of data products that locate and measure peat assets worldwide. This library can be used by multiple stakeholders to gain access to the increasing benefits and revenue streams arising from peatland restoration and conservation projects.
Patrick Newton, CEO for Rezatec commented: “We developed Peat Spotter with the aim of creating data products that will help land owners manage their peat resource more sustainably through mapping the area, measuring the carbon it contains and monitoring how its integrity is changing over time.”
He continued: “The Peat Spotter service is designed to offer a scalable, cost-effective alternative to existing commercial solutions for peatland management which are typically delivered on a non-scalable, professional services-led basis.”
Effective peatland management
Peat Spotter enables more effective peatland management because it can scale peatland structure and integrity evaluation over large areas of land at significantly less cost than using purely manual data gathering activities. For example, to support commercial initiatives such as carbon credits and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) for farmers and landowners who practice ecological land management in order to promote the conservation of natural resources.
Ground data, ranging from peat depth measurements to vegetation composition and canopy openness, and from spot measurements to on-going monitoring via satellite-transmitted data, are collected by field agents using handheld devices in order to calibrate the EO images and to assess what minimum field data are required to accurately model key properties of peatlands.
Identifying the integrity and health of peatlands and using risk assessment techniques, Peat Spotter can provide decision support on where to focus resources for restoration efforts. For example, water companies can significantly reduce the amount of water treatment necessary to achieve Drinking Water Standards if they are able to identify areas of degraded peatland and put in place restoration programmes at source. Water derived from degraded peatlands can contain elevated levels of dissolved organic carbon which results in significant discolouration.
Continuous measurement and monitoring of restoration and conservation efforts using Peat Spotter is also useful for demonstrating the investment value of such projects for stakeholders.
Alan Brunstrom, Head of Applications Business Office at ESA, Harwell said: “This innovative use of satellite data has far-reaching benefits for the space industry and the wider UK economy. Perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates how the scientific analysis of ‘big data’ can benefit the environment and, in this particular scenario, provide valuable information to allow sustainable peatland management practices on a global scale.”
César Bastón Canosa, Feasibility Studies Engineer at Integrated Applications Promotion, ESA added: “It is exciting for us that space technology is being used for ecology, conservation and sustainability and in doing so being able to create business and employment.”
Rezatec’s Peat Spotter service is delivered through an on-demand platform via customised dashboards with geospatial mapping, data layers and dynamic analytics.