New Cutting-Edge Space Technology to Revolutionize Global Forest Protection

Non-profit organization CTrees has launched Land Use Change Alert (LUCA), the world's first global radar-based forest disturbance alert system.

An example of LUCA: Forest disturbance from small-scale agriculture and industrial agroforestry expansion in Kalimantan, Indonesia, 2018-2023. Image Credit: CTrees

Unique in its ability to cover all forest biomes, LUCA leverages data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 1 radar satellite system to fill a critical gap in global forest monitoring. It revolutionizes the understanding of forest disturbances — including all forms of deforestation and degradation — by providing near-real-time information on forests worldwide.

Available for free on the CTrees website, LUCA is set to become an indispensable resource for policymakers, law enforcement agencies, carbon market participants, academics, and think tanks — providing unparalleled speed and accuracy in identifying, addressing, and accounting for forest disturbances. Use cases include:

  • EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) can use LUCA to verify deforestation-free product compliance and enable greater control of commodity supply change management.
  • Law enforcement agencies can leverage LUCA's rapid alert system to enable quicker interventions against illegal logging or land use changes.
  • Carbon market participants can use LUCA to address a long-standing need for improved monitoring and reporting processes, offering a new level of verification and integrity for forest-based carbon offset projects.
  • Policymakers can benefit from the system's near-real-time monitoring and trend analysis capabilities, providing a data-driven foundation for effective and timely forest conservation policies.
  • Think tanks and academic researchers can delve into the system's rich historical data to identify long-term patterns and drivers of deforestation, thereby informing public discourse and policy recommendations.

LUCA includes historical data dating back to January 2018 and employs state-of-the-art Machine Learning capabilities to ensure precise analysis. This enables previously unavailable trend evaluations, which is crucial for designing targeted policy interventions.

Sassan Saatchi, Co-founder and CEO of CTrees said: “We believe LUCA’s unparalleled speed, accuracy, and coverage will prove to be an essential tool in global forest conservation efforts. By making it free and accessible to all, this tool will transform our understanding of the world’s indispensable forests and aid researchers, carbon market participants, law enforcement agencies, and policymakers who are working to protect them.”

LUCA is a first-of-its-kind monitoring technology that offers clearer resolution, a global scope, and availability for all forest biomes, including tropical humid, tropical dry, temperate, and boreal forests. It also provides unparalleled alerts in near real-time to potential deforestation and degradation. LUCA also improves on prior monitoring approaches based on optical images which are sensitive to weather conditions and struggle to get cloud-free images across the tropics. LUCA counters this by utilizing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, ensuring alerts are generated in almost any weather condition. This extends its utility across a wide range of climates and conditions.

Beginning today, CTrees released LUCA on its website with continual updates and new features to be released over time. The team is committed to ongoing improvements, including integrating data from the joint NASA-ISRO NISAR mission, set to launch in early 2024, to further enhance LUCA's detection capacity and characterization of disturbances.

Dee Lawrence, founder and director, Cool Effect: "Forestry projects account for more than 40% of all carbon credit issuances globally. LUCA offers an unprecedented monitoring tool for detecting forest degradation and destruction. This is ideal for the ICVCM’s new assessment criteria. Further, the product is for anyone who wishes to protect the world’s forests, including those in countries with high-value forests but limited budgets, as it is offered at no charge.”

Join CTrees for a webinar on October 18, 2023, at 9:00 am PT, to introduce Land Use Change Alerts (LUCA). CTrees scientist Dr. Adugna Mullissa will share details on the LUCA platform and its core features, demo examples of LUCA in action, and explain the scientific methodology used to produce the alerts.

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