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The Romanian Forest Inspector in the spotlight

July 25th, 2017. In the last couple of weeks, the Forest Inspector has raised vivid discussions in the Romanian press about the status of the platform and the mobile application. TERRASIGNA has contributed to the platform development, and the facts below present the service evolution, as well as its progress’ deployment stages.

The Romanian Forest Inspector is a monitoring service, based on satellite imagery, acquired and processed by our company, and transferred to the general public use, through an IT platform, administered by an external company.

The service is a geographic information system that ingests Sentinel 1 radar imagery and optical satellite images from Sentinel 2 and Landsat. Support information is acquired from Open Street Map and Google platforms. Data availability is verified every two to five days and acquired once it meets the mandatory quality and cloud coverage criteria. Prior to any imagery analysis, in-house developed software performs all the necessary pre-processing steps like co-registration or atmospheric correction. Afterwards, the software compares pairs of images taken at 10 to 15 days interval over the same areas and identifies the changes in forest cover, which can indicate logging activities, wind damages, fires, etc.

These changes, that can be equalled to forest loss, do not necessarily represent illegal deforestation.

Forest loss can be caused by various natural and human induced processes loss: legal harvesting, wind damages, landslides, fires, flash floods, etc. In order to assess legal or illegal forest cuts, the satellite map is further populated with information coming from the governmental digital database and tracking system. This information includes:

  • permissions about who, what and where to cut – woodland project developments, exploitation licenses and other legal approvals for forest exploitation;
  • the truck license plate number;
  • the logging location.

The platform represents a part of SUMAL project (Woodland Vegetation Tracking System) and brings together citizen activism, technology and authorities. Due to its multi-level access features, both authorities and citizens can monitor the logging activities.

Back in 2014, in order to fight illegal cutting, the government at that time first established a mandatory digital tracking system for all the trucks transporting wood. This mobile application – initially known as The Forest Radar (Radarul Padurilor) – allows every citizen to verify the legitimacy of logging operations, based on the truck licence plate number, GPS data records and location registration. However, the system proved to be easily eluded through GPS fake loading points, and in 2016, in order to add an additional control, this mobile application was enforced with the online platform The Forest Inspector – solution based on satellite images.