Ecomonitoring Digitizes Irkutsk Forests

Ecomonitoring Digitizes Irkutsk Forests

Photo: https://programlesprom.ru/

In January 2021, the Ecomonitoring company presented “a digital twin” of the forest fund in the Irkutsk region. Thanks to the use of its own developments based on the principles of systematic ecology and the application of computer-assisted learning methods, it was possible to obtain...

... up-to-date and reliable data on the stock, age, basic species and growth class of forests on the entire territory of the Irkutsk region (about 71 mln ha.) Remote-sensing and selective forest inventory data from several ranger districts provided the information basis for the effort. The field inspections confirmed the high accuracy of the data given by "twin."

“This region was chosen not by chance," says A.N. Krenke, a Doctor in Geography and the project supervisor. "The Irkutsk region is the local leader in timber export. The main problems typical for the Russian forestry industry as a whole might be revealed there.

“The digital maps that we created show significant differences between the observed picture and the "known" forest maps of the area. We see not only the extreme depletion of the majority of the region's exploited forests by logging and natural elements. We also observe a significant deterioration of the qualitative characteristics of forests due to the replacement of coniferous species by small-leaved ones and the deterioration of conditions for the maintenance and development of biodiversity. This means a deterioration of both the commercial characteristics of forests and their role in the eco-system. And this is a very strong cause for concern."

The issues of forestry have been the main subject of speculations and rumors for several years. It is clear to everyone that the preservation of the current model of forest management brings up extremely negative consequences for Russia. It is necessary to reorganize the system and to introduce a model of intensive forest use and differentiated forest management. It is a model where some parts of the forest area are seen as a source of renewable forest resources and others generators of essential eco-system functions, for example, carbon conservation, biodiversity maintenance, and recreation. However, the implementation of this management system requires the designing of a "digital twin" of the real world. It will allow ensuring interactions and digital services for all parties from loggers to regulators and environmental organizations. "Digital twins" of cities are already widespread. They firmly integrated into our lives, providing taxi, car-sharing and delivery services. Forest areas are the next on the list.

Data on forests is currently in a poor state. As a rule, they are incomplete and largely outdated. Even the data on the total area of Russia's forests and timber reserves differ by a factor of several times from one source to another. In terms of qualitative characteristics, such as species composition, age, and growth class, the situation is even worse.

"Without creating modern and economically viable technology for building "digital twins" of the forest, any attempts to modernize the industry are doomed to failure,” said I.K. Petrov, the Development Director of the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography. “It should be noted that for Russia, due to the size of its territory and the level of development of the transport network, the systems of forest information that are typical of European forestry, with the costs ranging from 200 to 300 euros per ha of surveyed area, are not suitable. That is why the creation of Russia’s own and relatively inexpensive technology is so important. The technology presented by Ecomonitoring allows receiving an accurate "digital twin" of forests on a territory measured in dozens of millions of ha in a very short time. It is based on widely available satellite imagery data and an extremely limited set of conditionally reliable taxation data. The results obtained for the Irkutsk region enable us to say that Russia has a tool of information support for digital transformation of the industry that is ready for commissioning by the industry.”

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