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Forest Carbon Flux and Storage Mapping Service

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ForestFlux (Forest Carbon Flux and Storage Mapping Service)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-11-30

Sustainable forest management requires up-to-date and reliable information not only on forest structure, but also on its primary productivity and carbon stocks, and on changes. Information is increasingly demanded for forest management purposes, to prove responsible asset management to the shareholders, and to follow the European policies and treaties.

Hence, the market drivers for Forest Flux were the needs for
• A complete and up-to-date description of existing forest resources at an affordable price, and
• Inclusion of carbon as one of the decision criteria for forest management, beyond the currently dominating timber volume and direct economic value.

The business value of up-to-date forest resource data is the same as in any business process: in knowing the existing inventory of the production resources as the basis for production planning. The role of carbon is driven by the climate change and the attempts to mitigate it.

The overall objective of the Forest Flux project was to foster the development of Copernicus Earth Observation (EO) market and improve the profitability of forest management by implementing a world-first service of high-resolution maps of forest carbon fluxes, storage, and their development over time using satellite imagery and associated data.

To achieve the overall objective, the following specific objectives were defined:
1. Assure the scientific coherence and accuracy of the Forest Flux products on large geographic scales;
2. Implement a scalable modular computation system for predicting forest structural variables, carbon stocks and fluxes, and the total carbon footprint on a commercially available computing platform;
3. Openly demonstrate the value of the services to the wider user community;
4. Perform a complete system integration with the existing business processes of the user;
5. Remove technical and communication barriers from European companies and institutions in using carbon flux and storage information in their operational decision-making.

We consider the project objectives achieved and the technology readiness level 8-9 reached. The services developed in the Forest Flux project fulfill requirements for the monitoring of forest resources and carbon. They improve the profitability of forestry and information on the value of forest asset while helping ensuring its ecological sustainability.
The work focused in four key areas: development of the services, implementation of the pilot services, dissemination and communication including user interaction, and market development. The project was carried out in two phases. The phases included user interaction, service development, service piloting, and analysis of the results. Based on the experiences and feedback from the first phase, all elements of Forest Flux service were further developed in the second phase. The services and the promotional material were updated and the promotion to win a large group of potential users was intensified based on the feedback from the users.

Three service types were developed: forest structural variable services, carbon storage and flux services, and organizational carbon balance services. For each service type, several products were specified reflecting the user requirements for forest management planning and carbon inventory. The forest variables that are computed with Forest Flux include traditional structural variables such as biomass-related variables, annual increment, and major tree species. The carbon flux variables were annual Gross Primary Production (GPP), Net Primary Production (NPP), and Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE). Earlier carbon flux models were extended to temperate and sub-tropical vegetation zones and verified with flux tower data.

Forest Flux production chain was implemented on the scalable Forestry TEP cloud platform. The software tools for the processing chain were developed to a level that enabled automated map production with uncertainty assessment. This meant updating of existing Forestry TEP services, implementing software that was available outside the Forestry TEP, and completely new software modules on the platform. The implemented tools were integrated in one processing chain using JupyterLab notebook and the Representational State Transfer (REST) Application Programming Interface (API) provided by Forestry TEP.

Quality assurance procedures were defined for all elements of Forest Flux services. The quality assurance system was developed in the first project phase and it was refined in the second phase. Specific software was developed for the quality assurance of the forest structural variable estimation and category classifications.

Computed products were mostly digital maps with supporting quantitative figures such as statistical data on uncertainty. They were provided for nine user organizations and sites in Europe, South America, and Africa. The sites represented managed boreal and temperate natural forest, eucalyptus plantations, and a sub-tropical reforestation site. In total, approximately 1200 map products were delivered.

User communication included training of the users regarding the pilot products, collection of their feedback, updating their expectations for the Forest Flux services, and preparation of service agreements. The communication with the users was conducted through bilateral workshops.

The emphasis on wider dissemination and communication was on project web pages during most part of the project. The Covid-19 pandemic forced abandoning of most face-to-face communication and changing it to on-line from March 2020 until the end of the project. The project web pages (forestflux.eu) were and are still updated regularly.

A commercial service entity for forest structural and carbon flux variables is available from Forest Flux. It is based on the business plan that was a key deliverable of the project.
Forest Flux completed a seamless chain for the computation of maps and associated data on forest structural and carbon flux variables. The services were implemented on the Forestry TEP cloud platform. To our knowledge, such services are not available under a similar framework. Forest growth models based on physiological processes were parametrized also to the temperate and sub-tropical zone in addition to the former parametrization for the boreal zone.

The Forest Flux system enables frequent monitoring of forest resources and carbon for forest owners, timberland management companies, investors, insurance sector, as well as governmental and intergovernmental bodies.

The Forest Flux services will improve success and growth of European value adding service providers thus providing jobs and prosperity for the society. The services also help the society to adapt to climate change and manage forest resources in a sustainable manner.
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