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

Case Study: EO DIP – Forest Monitoring

General Information

  • Provider: University of Leicester, Forest Research
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO) – optical and radar
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Forestry Commission, Defra EO Centre of Excellence


  • 2016

This project was co-funded by SSGP and the Defra EO Centre of Excellence.

For all UK woodland the gross value added in 2012 by forestry and primary wood processing was £1901, million with 41K jobs. Current forecasts show that timber availability is set to rise by 50% by 2030. The National Forest Inventory (NFI), a rolling programme providing accurate information on the Nation’s forests, can be updated annually using a combination of satellite imagery to identify woodland change and increase the utility to both public and private sectors.

Pilot objectives

The aim of the project is to track forest stock for downstream industry investment, carbon accounting, biodiversity, given reducing budgets and to streamline regulatory (felling licenses) and plant health activities. The potential of Sentinel 1 (radar) and Sentinel 2 (optical) data use for annual updates is explored. This can reduce the chance of missing landscape changes such as wind blow of trees, planting or felling of trees.

Project outcomes

Radar imagery is very likely to enhance existing NVDI-based technique which detects felling, wind blow and land use change. Gains are identified in earlier detection of planting, canopy height and size of forest unit detected. Benefits include helping accommodate reductions in monitoring budget whilst retaining critical evidence. Additionally international best practice is reviewed.