Turning forest carbon assimilation into a service in a VTT-led project


VTT coordinates the EU-funded Forest Flux project, launched in 2018, which creates commercial services for the estimation of forest carbon storage and assimilation. The services are based on computerised interpretation of satellite data acquired by the Sentinel-2 satellite, which is part of the European Copernicus Programme. The customers of the global service include forest companies, authorities and NGOs.

Using a cloud-based service platform maintained by VTT, the satellite data is refined into map products describing the forest biomass and carbon assimilation. The interpretation is supported by ground data that allows the estimation of the reliability of computed maps. The cloud service also enables dissemination of the products to the customers. There is no need for the service users to transfer vast amounts of data as the images are readily available in the cloud service. Provided in a format that does not require much storage space, the final data is quick to download by the customers.

"This is a whole new product, since this kind of service entity being developed in the Forest Flux, with its computing platform and map products, has not been available before. The forest inventory and carbon data provided by the service can be integrated into the decision-making processes of selected users. The web-based services are also provided to customers without any geographic restrictions," says Research Professor Tuomas Häme, who acts as project coordinator.

The Sentinel-2 satellites gather data on the same area of the Earth every five days, which guarantees the provision of a cloudless image of most areas on the Earth every year, Finland included. Therefore, the carbon estimations can be computed on an annual basis. The resolution of the images, provided to the project by the European Space Agency (ESA), is ten metres.

Forest Flux is based on an earlier EU project, North State led by VTT, which developed the analysis methods being used. In addition to VTT, the other members of the Forest Flux consortium include the University of Helsinki, Simosol Oy, UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GmbH (Germany), Instituto Superior de Agronomia (Portugal) and Institutul Naţional de Cercetare-Dezvoltare în Silvicultură "Marin Drăcea" (Romania). The total budget of the project is slightly over two million euros.

VTT is also involved in the preparation of a project which aims to provide tools based on the forest inventory and carbon estimations based on satellite data free of charge. This project also uses the same cloud service platform as Forest Flux.

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