University of Leicester involved in Earth Observation project to protect tropical forests worldwide

Posted by ap507 at Jan 19, 2017 10:12 AM |
UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme kick-starts project to improve management and protection of 300 million hectares of tropical forests

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 19 January 2017 

Images of Professors Heiko Balzter and John Remedios from the University of Leicester are available here:

The University of Leicester is involved in a new £15m project funded by the UK Space Agency to help to protect tropical forests throughout the world.

The 'Forests 2020' project is set to help countries to improve the management and protection of around 300 million hectares of tropical forests - 12 times the size of the United Kingdom - and sees sustainability software and data company Ecometrica lead an international consortium that brings together many of the world's leading experts on forest monitoring.

As part of the project, Ecometrica will sub-contract experts from the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), University of Edinburgh, the University of Leicester, and fellow Edinburgh company Carbomap, a specialist in LiDAR forest mapping.

The project will also see Ecometrica bring together various partners in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico, where Earth Observation laboratories will be set up to assess threats to rainforests and help direct conservation resources.

The project is due to complete in March 2020.

The University of Leicester will be leading the development of forest change detection systems within the project. The project aims for the detection and measurement of difficult to measure forest change: degradation associated with small-scale agriculture, mining and illegal logging, as well as changes under cloud cover. NCEO’s staff at Leicester provide key skills in processing of satellite data for forests, taking advantage of the leading technology of Sentinel satellites from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Professor Heiko Balzter, who is leading the University of Leicester work on Forests 2020, said: “Pristine rainforests are not only wonderful ecosystems in their own right. They also store a lot of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Forests are also home to an astonishing richness of animal and plant species. I am very excited to be able to contribute to the protection of the world’s forests using satellites.”

Professor John Remedios, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) at the University of Leicester, added: “The launch of this project marks the remarkable expansion of a joint industry-research science service to make a difference to forests across the globe.  Leicester and Edinburgh will be leading centres of innovation in forest services.”

‘Forests 2020’ will improve the capacity of local partners and stakeholders to implement effective forest and ecosystem monitoring services covering more than 300 million hectares of tropical forests.

The result will improve targeting of resources to safeguard those areas of forest that would most likely be lost without intervention. It is estimated that these improved systems could contribute to 4-6 million hectares of avoided forest loss over a decade.

Dr Richard Tipper, executive chairman of Ecometrica, added:  "We all know how important tropical rainforests are to the survival of the global ecosystem, but most people are only just waking up to the fact that we need to use technology to make sure conservation efforts are effective. Our Earth Observation platform will ensure threats such as fires and illegal logging are detected sooner, and make the response on the ground faster and more cost effective.

“Forests 2020 builds on our expertise of applying satellite data to situations on the ground, and will allow us to tackle technological challenges relating to the detection of changes to forests, the measurement of risk, and the digital infrastructure needed to use our platforms in the field.”

Read a profile about Professor Heiko Balzter by the Royal Society here:

More information about the National Centre for Earth Observation at the University of Leicester:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Heiko Balzter on or Professor John Remedios on

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