Forest Monitoring: How the Forests 2020 project is protecting our environment

Forest Monitoring: How the Forests 2020 project is protecting our environment

Published February 29, 2024

3 minute read

Over the last 10,000 years, the world has lost a third of its forests. This equates to an area twice the size of the US. Even worse; half of this destruction has occurred in the last 100 years.  

Deforestation - the purposeful clearing and conversion of forested land for different land use – is a serious development and environmental challenge. 

When we raze forests to make way for activities like agriculture, fuel production and construction, not only do we lose huge swathes of precious trees, we create a whole host of other problems, too.  

Deforestation severely impacts our ecosystems. Globally, estimates suggest we are losing 137 species of plants, animals and insects every day to deforestation. It is also a major contributor to climate change. In fact, forest loss is estimated to be the cause of around 10% of global warming. 

Forests 2020: utilising satellite data to protect and restore our forests

Tackling deforestation and restoring our forests requires a unified approach.

Forests 2020, led by Ecometrica (now EcoOnline), is a project sponsored by the UK Space Agency that brings together some of the UK’s best experts on forest monitoring.  

By combining our efforts, Forests 2020 improves the accuracy of satellite-based detection of forest change, deforestation and degradation.  

The project also brings together a wealth of expertise in understanding the risks to forests around the world and identifying opportunities for forest restoration.  

Forests 2020 is a major investment by the UK Space Agency, as part of the International Partnerships Programme (IPP), to help protect and restore up to 300 million hectares of tropical forests by improving forest monitoring in six partner countries through advanced uses of satellite data.

IPP is a five-year, £152 million programme designed to partner UK space expertise with overseas governments and organisations. It is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). 

Led by Ecometrica (now EcoOnline), Forests 2020 is a collaboration between some of the UK’s leading experts on forest monitoring and local experts in Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Belize, Ghana and Kenya.  

By working together, the Forests 2020 project delivers accurate, up-to-date deforestation data to governments, communities, agribusinesses and traders. 

How does the Forests 2020 project help to combat deforestation?


Detecting deforestation in near real-time

Satellites are excellent tools in combating deforestation because they can detect change in near real-time.  

Modern earth observation satellites can provide frequent images which cover the whole planet. Sentinel 1 and 2 (earth observation satellites powered by the European Copernicus programme) provide free and open, radar and optical, satellite data every 5-6 days.  

These images enable us to see small disturbances on the ground and can even detect the removal of a single tree through selective logging. 

This data now goes straight into our Forest Monitoring Platform, which is a powerful environmental profiling tool that enables users to explore the risk profiles of potential future assets, suppliers and sourcing regions. 

Identify areas at high risk of deforestation 

To effectively conserve and protect forests, it is important to understand which areas are most at risk of deforestation.  

EcoOnline, powered by Ecometrica, has been working with partners to develop global, national and local scale forest at-risk datasets which are accessible via one platform 

These datasets are vital decision-making tools, ensuring investments in forest protection are channelled to the most vulnerable areas.  

The data can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a deforestation intervention. 

By using risk maps as a reference level, we can estimate what the expected forest loss would have been if the deforestation had not been stopped.  

Ecometrica deforestation risk dashboard image

Forest Restoration 

Forests 2020 has also helped to develop innovative tools to identify areas suitable for forest restoration 

As part of the Forests 2020 project, the University of Edinburgh has developed potential biomass models to support decision-making in restoration activities. 

Potential restoration areas can now be overlaid with opportunity data layers within our Forest Monitoring Platform to help estimate what the potential carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide) would be from restoring forests in that area.  

Information about species suitability and climate scenarios can also be added, making the software a powerful tool to support countries’ ambitious restoration targets. 

Supporting zero-deforestation commodities 

The private sector has an important role in addressing deforestation, particularly in agricultural supply chains.   

Soy, Palm Oil, Cocoa and Beef are recognised as ‘forest risk’ commodities globally as agricultural expansion is often at the expense of natural resources. 

Forests 2020 has helped us to engage with private sector actors working in these supply chains to enhance the capabilities of our Supply Chain Monitoring software, which allows organisations to rapidly and accurately analyse environmental risk within their global supply chain.   

Find out more about our Forest Monitoring Software

Author Helen Down

Helen has worked within the health and safety industry for nearly a decade and has a background in growth marketing within the SaaS space. Throughout her career, she has written extensively about health and safety, risk, legislation, and lone working.

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