ImageTree prepares to measure forest carbon change

By Susanne Retka Schill
According to Chuck Anderson, vice president of eco-market development for ImageTree Corp., deforestation contributes an estimated 20 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. On the upside, he believes interest in forest carbon sequestration is growing, as evidenced in the attendance of forestry sessions at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, in December.

The U.N. is working toward bringing forest carbon into a traded and regulated marketplace as part of its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program.

Dubbed REDD, the program aims to create incentives for countries to reverse deforestation and improve forest management.

Anderson said Panama was recognized at the U.N. conference as the developing nation furthest along in readiness to address the issues concerning trading forest carbon credits.

The issues include creating transparency and credibility in measuring reductions in deforestation rates that can be independently reviewed, ensuring indigenous communities will benefit and addressing biodiversity concerns.

ImageTree is working with Panama and the intergovernmental organization CATHALAC, a Spanish acronym for Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin American and the Caribbean. "Panama has said they would like to participate in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases," Anderson said. One of the challenges has been to find accurate methods to measure changes in large tracts of forests. ImageTree will use its technology to help establish the baseline data that Panama will need to demonstrate improvements in forest carbon sequestration.

ImageTree has developed analytical tools that combine satellite images of forests with aerial laser-aided measurements to create three-dimensional models of forests in high resolution. The technology can measure growth in the layers underneath the forest canopy at a resolution in which changes can be tracked in small areas, almost by individual trees, Anderson said. The company began utilizing the technology for the forest inventories in the U.S. and Canada, and it sees an opportunity with wood-based biomass projects needing to inventory feedstock supply in a particular region.