Iwokrama Forest Cover Mapping with Radar Data

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The Iwokrama Forest is a 371'000 ha FSC-certified forest in the "Green Heart of Guyana" and is one of only four remaining intact rain forest systems in the world. It is located in the center of the Guyana Shield, a geological formation underlying the whole of Guyana, Suriname and French-Guyana as well as parts for Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Under a joint mandate from the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage the Iwokrama Forest, the Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) was established in 1996. From then, the IIC started its sustainable timber harvesting operation to demonstrate the sustainable use of forest resources through low-impact harvesting. To validate the use of best practices, Iwokrama has achieved international accreditation of its forest management practices and operations by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 2016. The process of accreditation was supported by the CATS programme.

Now, two years later and just in time for the re-accreditation of the Iwokrama FSC sigil, monitoring and evaluation efforts were undertaken to develop a methodology that allows for the assessment of the success of the Iwokrama approach. The objective of the project " Iwokrama Forest Cover Mapping with Radar Data " was to create digital maps showing forest / non forest areas for three observation years. These maps enable detecting the logging roads in the concession (i.e. disturbed forest) and assessing changes in the forest cover over time. Based on these three maps, two change maps were created showing the changes in the classes Forest / Non Forest areas between the years 1999-2015 and 2015-2017. The analysis is based on satellite remote sensing data, specifically Radio Detection And Ranging (RADAR) data from the European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS) and the Sentinel-1 satellites of the Copernicus Earth Observation programme. The use of RADAR data for this project is advantageous due to the fact that the Iwokrama forest is virtually permanently under cloud cover and radar satellites can make observations of the earths surface nonetheless. Considering the vast expanse of the area, satellite imagery allows for fast mapping of the area of interest, as compared to e.g. aircraft-bound imagery systems. The Germany-based consultancy company Mundialis acquired and analysed data on behalf of the CATS programme. The results are consolidated in the reports attached to this article.

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