Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Case Study: Rezatec – Space Applications for Precision Plant Health Information, Response & Evaluation (SAPPHIRE) (Phase 1)

General Information

  • Provider: Rezatec
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO) Satellite Navigation
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Central Government, Defra, Forestry Commission
  • Website: www.rezatec.com

Year

  • 2016

This project was selected through an SSGP competition run using Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), supported by Innovate UK.

This project worked with Forest Research, the UK’s primary research organisation for forestry / woodlands, to respond to difficulties associated with obtaining accurate tree distribution by species, especially broadleaf species, and to address the lack of contemporary data of tree species distribution and abundance needed to predict the progression of forest pathogens.

Rezatec addressed this need with EO-derived analytics for tree species classification and phenology characterisation. The project successfully produced:

  • Species distribution maps for Ash and Oak species with greater than 80% model accuracy for both species
  • Tree stress indicator maps for Ash and Oak species, for 3 keys stages in the annual cycle:
    • Intra-annual detection of anomalous phenological behaviour
    • Operational monitoring

Rezatec - Phenology Tree Stress Monitoring

Species distribution mapping utilised Sentinel-1 C-band SAR time-series data and optical multi-spectral data, as well as machine-learning algorithms and a novel technique for modelling distribution based on standard field based measurements of tree properties (e.g. diameter at breast height (DBH)).

The baseline phenological behaviour patterns were extracted from Sentinel-1 time-series for key broadleaved species and development of health monitoring system. The approach is standardised and is scalable and relatively high-frequency (potential for monthly updates) which makes it applicable to operational monitoring activities.

Rezatec - Oak Species Classification

Lessons Learned

The project explored how Sentinel Earth observation (EO) and standard survey ground-based data layers can be combined to create a landscape intelligence tool, focusing on depicting tree species distributions and their condition.

Costs and Benefits

Forestry user organisations need specialist technical assistance to specify, acquire and manipulate the satellite data, and help integrate the data into existing datasets and operational approaches.

The UK is well placed to deliver into the global market for such services. Substantial further benefits, possibly in the range of £5-15M p.a., will accrue as UK forestry and land management sectors develop skills as “intelligent customers” for these new EO services and start to integrate these into their core operational management processes.

This estimate is based on the current costs for forest inventory on a per hectare basis being in the region of £44.00. Between 5% and 10% of the 3.15 million hectares of forestry in the UK requires inventory work for management and harvesting (where commercial) and this per-hectare cost would be substantially reduced with this new EO service.

Next Steps

The next steps identified by the project team include:

  • Extension of tree species classification models, in order to map additional tree species across the nation
  • Adding enhanced tree health monitoring capabilities to enable more proactive forestry management at an enhanced spatial and temporal scale
  • Different commercial Forestry management and surveying companies will be approached to assess their interest in the products and concepts developed here.