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Community / Land projects / Remote Sensing for sustainable use of seasonally dry tropical forests - Learning to live with the forest

Remote Sensing for sustainable use of seasonally dry tropical forests - Learning to live with the forest


04/19 - 03/21


This project is part of


Around the world, seasonally dry tropical forests have in the past been disregarded as marginal wastelands but are now recognised for the importance of their biodiversity and potential ecosystem services. They face critical challenges of conservation, unsustainable use leading to desertification, local poverty and migration to urban areas. In Brazil, 11% of its land area is this type of forest, called the Caatinga. There is an urgent need to provide methods by which this fragile biome can be monitored and protected, for the plants, animals and people who live there. The aim of this project is to develop a tool that can provide a new level, quality and accessibility of information for 1) biodiversity monitoring at species level and 2) an assessment of ecosystem quality, with resulting implications for land use. Quantitative maps generated by this novel technology can be used to optimise resources and underpin policy and forest management methods. This project will generate technological innovation by integrating high resolution remote sensing (hyperspectral imaging from drones using Rutherford Appleton Laboratory camera systems) with ground-based measurement on the ground (including plant spectral profiles and LIDAR). One way in which it will be tested will be examination of effects of various levels of cattle grazing upon the forest, as a widespread human/environment interaction. To achieve its aims, the project team is interdisciplinary and international, with research partners from the UK and Brazil. The project will also involve Brazilian stakeholders from federal and state level ministries, agencies and advisory groups, as well as NGOs and other groups responsible for communities and for policymaking. By seeking their specific needs for affordable, practical technology at the start of the project, and by facilitating their planning for uptake of the technology by the end of the project, the project will seek to maximise its impact in Brazil. The technology will also have broader relevance to other seasonal dry forests and indeed other threatened, inaccessible ecosystems around the globe. Thus, through the technological innovation and deliberate engagement of stakeholders, the project will address the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: 'Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss'.


The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research to address challenges faced by developing countries. The fund addresses the UN sustainable development goals. It aims to maximise the impact of research and innovation to improve lives and opportunity in the developing world.

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