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Remote Sensing Technology Center of Japan

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Forest

Japan's Top Professionals Monitor Forests around the World from Space

Takahiro Endo

Forests play a variety of important roles, including mitigating global warming and preventing landslide disasters. There are currently fears of worsening deforestation, and international discussions are underway to establish a system for preserving forests. There is an increasing likelihood that captured and stored carbon dioxide will be traded on the market, but turning this into reality requires the quantitative measurement of carbon absorbed by forests. With RESTEC’s knowhow, the technology and experience accumulated over the years in observing forests from space will help to solve this social issue.

Takahiro Endo, Forest Team Leader

Observing the Forests of the Entire World since 1992

Ever since RESTEC launched JERS-1 called as “Fuyo No.1” in 1992, it has monitored forests throughout the world. Contracted by JAXA, it created the a global forest map for the first time using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). RESTEC uses SAR to carry out large-scale forest monitoring. This leads to the accumulation of knowhow, technology and experience. Furthermore, using ALOS-2 called as “DAICHI-2,” launched in May 2014, allows for the detailed observation of forest, and great expectations are held for it to enable even more accurate estimation of carbon absorption.

Global forest map released in 2009
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Global forest map released in 2009. It is the world’s only global forest map made using ALOS with the L band microwave sensor. Green areas indicate forests.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Making Full Use of a Variety of Tools

Measurements are also taken using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as observation tools. For example, in 2014 carbon dynamic assessment was carried out in the tropical forests in the Amazon, in collaboration with other institutions including the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute and the National Institute of Amazonian Research. We calculated the forest volume using a LiDAR system we developed to take various measurements such as the heights of trees along stretches of approximately 700m in around 15 minutes, in a jungle that would take people 45 minutes to push 100m through by foot. This device allows highly accurate measurements to be taken anywhere, anytime. We can tackle issues making full use of our expertise and technology in both satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Moving forward, RESTEC will develop technology that can measure the amount of carbon stored in forests at low cost. As a main player among the objective assessors of forests, we will contribute to the realization of a low-carbon society by creating markets for encouraging forest preservation, in order to pass on bountiful forests to future generations.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
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Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

Installed laser unit
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Installed laser unit

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Observational result

In camera measuring mode, measurements can be made with a spatial resolution of 2cm from a height of 80m. The shape of a forest canopy can be measured at 20 points over a unit area in laser measuring mode. The height of trees and forest volume were estimated based on measurements taken by the UAV.

Exposing Illegal Logging in the Amazon in Cooperation with the Brazilian Federal Police Department

Exposing Illegal Logging in the Amazon in Cooperation with the Brazilian Federal Police Department

The strengths of RESTEC lie in our advanced observation image analysis techniques, as well as our ability to enable users to construct easy-to-use tools and systems to support them to make their own interpretations of the data, and even carry out training on their own.

For example, we dispatched RESTEC employees starting in 2009 to take part in a JICA project to combat illegal logging of tropical forests in the Amazon. We developed software that could identify logged areas of forests from images, and a system that would allow coordination with the local police. We also supervised local technicians, and achieved dramatic success – the number of incidents of illegal logging more than halved in three years.

Moreover, we are contributing to efforts to eradicate illegal logging in Southeast Asia.

Discovering an illegal logging site

While surveying an area in a helicopter, a truck was found actually transporting logs out of a forest where it was believed, from images, that illegal logging was being carried out.

JICA project to prevent illegal logging of tropical forests in the Amazon

A RESTEC employee advising a Brazilian technician as part of the JICA project to prevent illegal logging of tropical forests in the Amazon. Local technicians were trained so that they would be able to customize the software and system and update it regularly on their own.

Logging of the tropical forest of the Amazon being carried out in the Rondonia region of Brazil

Image (1) is a color composite image that combines Image (2) taken in 1995 with Image (3) taken in 2009. Within the area of approximately 110 km2, yellow indicates forest cover, and dark brown indicates areas logged since 1995. Red indicates areas logged in the 15 years from 1995 to 2009. It is obvious from an analysis of the image that logging of the forest has dramatically increased.