Project goal: Contribute to the Community's policy on development of sustainable use of natural resources.
Project objective: To develop and demonstrate an advanced forest environmental monitoring and management system prototype. The operational version of the prototype must be able to monitor the entire Europe giving precise and coherent information on the environmental status and development of the European forests. The prototype to be developed in the project will be demonstrated at three locations covering the three major European forest types (northern boreal coniferous forest, continental temperate mixed forest and Mediterranean dry forests).
The current situation is that forest environmental information is collected on a national basis. The type of parameters measured, the methodology used and the accuracy obtained vary a lot due to lack of coherent approaches. There is no good "total view" of the entire Europe, neither for the current status nor the long-term development. The project will develop the technology necessary to give a "total view" in time (long time series) and space (on national, regional and international scales). The project is successful if this methodology can be developed and demonstrated at the three test locations spanning the main variability in the European forests.
Sub-objective 1: To develop a system that is in accordance with current and future user.
The user needs have to be determined and understood in full depth in order to be able to develop a technical solution that will be attractive to the whole European user community. The user community for environmental information is the individual citizen, environmental organisations, forest management organisations (typically national institutes), governments, EU and international organisations (like EEA and UN). Users covering the three main European forest types are included in the project to ensure full in-depth understanding of the needs. Other key users representing different forest types, geography and forest management profiles will be investigated.
The forest-related parameters to map have to be decided through the user investigation. However, parameters commonly requested for either forest management in general or environmental monitoring of forests can be found in the following (exhaustive) list: Tree species, biomass, tree height, new clear cuttings, ground vegetation type, ground moisture, dry trees, wind fall, crown cover, age, chlorophyll features, net photosynthesis, nutrients, leaf area index, natural agents (drought, disease, insects), air pollutants, ground pollutants, geochemical stress, ground surface type, soil texture and terrain slope.
Even if the exact user needs have not yet been determined, the project has set the following general objectives, which can be applied as success measures:
- FOREMMS should provide exact and objective environmental forest information for the entire Europe of a quality that will support the demand at the European level (e.g. EU decision makers, EEA)
- FOREMMS should provide environmental forest information that will support national and regional management (government, national forest management authorities, large-scale industry)
- FOREMMS should be able to provide each individual European citizen with clear and easy-to-understand information that strengthen the individual's environmental awareness
- FOREMMS should provide environmental forest information that will be regarded as a valuable contribution to the global-change research effort by the international management and scientific community
If information from FOREMMS is requested by a reasonable proportion of end-users related to each objective above, say roughly 20%, it should be regarded as a success.
Sub-objective 2: To monitor forest resources at the three scales regional, national and international
The system comprises monitoring at three levels (scales):
- Selected intensive and small-size key-biotype areas (nodes) of a typical size of 20 km2 monitored in full detail by automatic field sensors, field studies and airborne very-high-resolution remote sensing;
- Fixed (including Level-1 areas) and sampled position high-resolution satellite images covering e.g. 10% of Europe's forest each time; and
- Spatial statistical parameter prediction for Europe's total forested area based on medium resolution satellite data, data from Level 2, previous monitoring of the same area and meteorological data.
Automatic field sensors are intended to measure air, precipitation and soil variables continuously (e.g., related to man-induced pollution). Airborne remote sensing data (spatial resolution of about 1 m) are typically collected each few years in a measurement campaign supported by field personnel doing detailed point-location measurements (samples). The high resolution satellite data of spatial resolution 20-30 m cover an area of typically 3000-30,000 km2, including the node areas and is acquired at about the same time as the airborne and field campaign. The medium-resolution satellite data (spatial resolution 250-1000 m) is acquired frequently through the vegetation season (each few weeks).
Sub-objective 3: To improve and integrate advanced remote sensing technology based on airborne and space-borne sensors for the extraction of forest environmental parameters.
Classification and inversion techniques will be improved for maximal information extraction of environmental forest parameters from data from airborne and space-borne remote sensing sensors. This includes parameter retrieval from hyper-spectral data (e.g., spectral unmixing utilising spectral libraries), from microwave data (e.g., applying inversion models for radar data) and sensor fusion (e.g., algorithms optimised for a combination of hyper-spectral and radar data). The algorithms will be applied to the airborne and space-borne remote sensing data acquired during the demonstration. A comparison with standard classification algorithms and inversion models will be done.
Sub-objective 4: To advance techniques for multi-scale integration of information in order to improve large-scale coverage by scattered information from more detailed scales.
A multi-scale data analysis approach will be applied in order to make an accurate monitoring of the total European forested area. The detailed information form the node areas (Level 1) is used to "calibrate" the analysis of the high-resolution satellite data (Level 2). Furthermore, data from Level 1 and 2 are used to calibrate the analysis of medium-resolution satellite data covering all forested areas (Level 3). The state-of-the-art spatial statistical analysis methodology will be improved in order to maximize information extraction and make reliable estimates of the accuracy obtained for the forest parameters.
Sub-objective 5: To develop techniques for the derivation of forest meta-data/higher-order information from spatial-temporal (4-D) collected data.
The environmental data are stored in a spatial-temporal database (the three spatial dimensions and the time dimension). From these data, meta-data is extracted doing, e.g., trend analysis, and combination of parameters for investigation of co-variation. There are subsystems for advanced interactive data visualisation, time series statistical analysis, scenario simulation and map and statistical report generation. The meta-data are investigated by an advanced visualisation system that allows for studying data in several dimensions. Digital environmental products are made for regional, national and international users for the management of forest resources.
Sub-objective 6: To contribute to the development of a standard scheme for European-scale collection and analysis of forest environmental parameters.
An international European monitoring network will necessarily create international collaboration and the need for standards of environmental forest data in order to be able to do a consistent European-level monitoring. Through it's international efforts, the project may contribute to the generation of standards for the type of parameters to monitor, the analysis methodology and data storage and exchange. Actions will also be taken to utilise already established networks, like NoLIMITS, and the standards for land-cover mapping in CORINE.
Sub-objective 7: To prepare for the deployment of the system covering the total European forest resources.
The ultimate goal is a European-wide monitoring network for concerted and coherent environmental forest information collection and analysis. In addition to developing the system, the project will establish three nodes spanning Europe geographically and in forest diversity. The project will conclude by making a realistic plan for the total deployment in Europe based on available national and international resources, and the international interest found during the user investigation.