Sometimes we get involved in projects with a large research element. Current work for the Scottish Government and Forestry Commission Scotland is an example. It focuses on determining how the Scottish Government can use remote sensing technology to assess the amount, location and distribution of trees outside areas classified as Scottish woodlands.
Forestry Commission Scotland monitors woodland and produces statistics and information on woodlands over 0.5 hectares and an annual map is publically available. This information is used to inform management and investment within the forest sector that contributes £1bn to the Scottish economy, and also informs a number of other environmental projects. However there is only limited information available on smaller areas of trees, not found in classified woodland areas and are less than 0.5 hectare, such as lone trees and hedgerows. This leaves a significant evidence gap, weakening Scotland’s capacity to account for its carbon stocks accurately, plan and control plant health outbreaks, to plan for urban trees impact on air quality and to plan effectively for new woodland creation and woodland expansion.
The availability of new remote sensing technologies offers the prospect of being able to quantify and map these tree features and to fill the evidence gap. In our research we are investigating a suite of datasets representing different sensors (e.g. radar vs optical) and resolutions, examining their ability to detect lone trees and small stands of woodlands not included in the National Forest Inventory.
Within the project we are developing a test methodology for determining the best mix of remote sensing technologies, their practical accuracy and cost effectiveness plus recommendations for the way forward.