High-tech eyes on the forest seek to help curb climate change

In Kalimantan, CIFOR scientists take to the skies to scope out forests.
A view of swamp forest in Danau Sentarum National Park, Tekenang hill, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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BOGOR, Indonesia—Remote sensing. Unmanned aerial vehicles. Spectrometry readers.

When teamed with traditional forestry techniques, these high-tech approaches may revolutionize the way we monitor forests, experts believe.

With the effects of climate change becoming ever clearer, advances in forest monitoring are vital.

“The IPCC has established beyond reasonable doubt that climate change is happening and it’s man-made,” said Christopher Martius, a principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“That means for us here in CIFOR that we are worried about how to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, because we know that this is responsible for between 10 percent and 25 percent of the overall global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

A team of scientists from CIFOR, the University of Wageningen and the University of Göttingen are exploring the best ways to use this equipment to get the most up-to-date, accurate and reliable forest data—testing instruments that are newly available or in advanced stages of development.

The forest monitoring approaches developed through this work could ultimately be vital for the implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) projects. For countries to receive payments for the carbon stored in their trees, they must first prove they have a robust forest-monitoring system. New approaches may well reduce costs and make forest and carbon observation more cost-efficient for the countries.

How will these new methods fare when put to the test in a peat swamp? In the video above, the team heads to Kalimantan, Indonesia, to find out.

For more information about this research, contact Christopher Martius at

CIFOR’s research on forests and climate change forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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Topic(s) :   Blue carbon, mangroves and peatlands REDD+ Peatlands Wetlands Indonesian Wetlands