Transparent Forests (TF) – a consortium sponsored by European Space Agency (ESA) – has developed an integrated platform and carried out a number of largescale trials using open-source Earth Observation (EO) data to provide Land Cover Maps (LCMs). These maps depict changes in forest conditions including natural forest, plantations, settlements, rivers, roads etc. Using time-series imagery, TF is able to show changes to the forest over time. The platform also provides a digital surface model that shows elevation. The latest EO sensors have the potential to monitor changes to forest cover every 12 days and, if required, to estimate timber volume.

Designed to support and simplify FSC field audits, the TF technology shows promise for assisting certification bodies in preparing and executing audits with potential cost and administrative savings. It offers the potential to build up a substantial database on changes to forest cover including roads, rail etc, to provide greater transparency and support a risk-based approach to certification and supply chains.

In association with FSC Russia and FSC South Africa, Mondi was a pilot tester of TF for the boreal forest in Komi, Russia, and in the Zimele plantation forests in South Africa. The Komi test allowed stakeholders to download maps prepared from EO satellite information in the field through the TFMobile app.

In South Africa, Mondi purchased EO data for TF to include the independent Ozwathini community smallholder plantations in the pilot trials to demonstrate the potential value of EO technology in reducing costs and the burden of certification for small growers.

This (TF) can become a mapping and management tool of incalculable value to smaller and group growers, reduce the volume of paper work and provide total transparency. This could be revolutionary.

ESA TP Report, 2016

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