A new class of Earth Observation and AI-driven Voluntary Carbon Credits for Forest Fire prevention and Forest Carbon Sink Regeneration: II/III

Part II / III  By Ajay Goyal, Founder & CEO @  ForestSAT.space

Early Forest Fire detection for suppression is not a panacea

Governments, Space agencies, and space tech companies have started to develop early fire detection methods and do fire modeling to predict the direction and speed of spread so that firefighters can get ahead of the fires. Early detection is key to fire suppression to mobilize firefighters and airplanes to combat and control flames as early as possible. However, the fire storms seen in the last years have taken experienced firefighters by surprise. The speed of the spread of fires is nothing short of fire storms or explosions. Only when a mega-fire has burnt all fuel and killed millions of trees, animals, homes, and whole towns in its path does it calm down with nothing left in its path to burn. The large Australian, and California fires of last several years burned for weeks and then months till the rains arrived. However, the fire suppression and the rains might only have kicked a much bigger problem down the road by dousing them with fire suppressants and water. Those bushes and forests are ready to explode with the next ignition and extreme temperatures.

There is sufficient data now that shows that wildfires are getting bigger, more ferocious, and more destructive in the past decade. While world attention has rightly been focused on ocean levels rising as a result of global warming no one anticipated that forest fires will take on such an ominous size and scale so fast. It is a problem impossible to turn away from.

Prevention is the Only Solution to Forest Fire Pandemic

At ForestSAT we have believed that forest fires at epidemic scale are in themselves only symptoms of a great underlying problem. Global warming and draughts are creating a catastrophe of frightening dimensions that include loss of biodiversity resulting in the death of many tree species, extinction of many animals, irreparable soil degradation, the proliferation of invasive species of plants that are parasites on native trees, and massive fuel buildup waiting to explode at first ignition.

Together with a mass planting of trees such as the billion tree program, the 1trillion tree pledge, and multiple, local, regional and global campaigns to create new green belts, and revive the mangroves and forests overall forest cover of the planet can be reinstated, and increased in time. However, the number of trees planted in itself does not solve any problem — as most trees planted after major fires or in Great Green Wall have just died. Trees must be planted in highly systemic scientific and data-driven methods with sensitivity to the ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the combination of conditions for fires to burn — low precipitation, high temperatures for longer periods, extreme heat, and high winds that would be a rare event in many places is now common. In the near term of the next decades, scientists are predicting increasing land temperatures that do not bode well for forests.

However, the situation is not so bleak and helpless if we explore the technological progress which opens a world of possibilities when it comes to understanding the climate impact, and forest change to determine data-driven action plans for the preservation of forests and the prevention of large uncontrolled forest fires.

Tens of millions of acres of forests in temperate, Mediterranean, and sub-tropical climate zones need proactive action to prevent forest fires.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, now known as CAL FIRE, estimates that of 33 million acres of forest in the state, 8 to 10 million acres need urgent mechanical thinning and burning to prevent similar disasters. CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service, which by itself controls 47 percent of the state’s forests, aim to treat a million acres a year this way by 2025.

At ForestSAT we have focussed on developing a science and data-driven solution to implement, expand and support this action plan. ForestSAT is releasing an Earth Observation AI Decision Support System ( DSS) to methodically study the forests for the last decade to map areas at fire risk. Together with forest areas-at-risk, communities, electric grid, critical infrastructure, and other assets will also be mapped and assigned fire-risk index by AI. This enables us to plan precise & effective action plan to mitigate the risks of wildfires, prevent them from occurring at such a large scale, minimize their footprint, and finally remove the risk by making forests under management more resilient and sustainable.

We process very large amounts of satellite data, field data, and knowledge of forestry going back at least a decade with AI to plot and measure the change and dynamics of forest degradation. We will be fusing and orchestrating satellite remote sensing data, ground sensors data, aerial surveys, and LiDAR data, forest science, and local knowledge to enable unparalleled insights, awareness, and knowledge for all stakeholders and communities about their respective forests. Our mission and capabilities are global but the proposed solutions are very local. Our intent is to democratize satellite data and place insightful information and actionable intelligence into the hands of all stakeholders.

Contd. at III/III