Forest Reboot – How data can restore our planet

By Arnout Asjes, CTO Land Life Company

Anyone fortunate enough to spend time near or in a forest knows they are hubs for thriving habitats and biodiversity, providing valuable ecosystem services such as food, fuel, timber and medicine. Natural forests help regulate soil and water, and perhaps most importantly, mitigate the effects of climate change thanks to their ability to sequester CO2 and restore degraded land.

Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, rendering even more land inhospitable and unable to recover naturally.

Waking up & scaling up

We are slowly awakening to this pressing reality. The United Nations has declared the next 10 years the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, IPBES has just reported that three-quarters of the land-based environment has been significantly altered by human actions, the UK Government has declared a climate emergency and climate-related strikes and protests around the world are putting pressure on private and public sectors to make accelerating land restoration a priority in the global agenda.

Between 2000 and 2013, the area of intact forest fell by 7%, an area of France and the UK combined. Although the overall rate of deforestation has slowed, this is partly an accounting trick as monoculture plantations replace biodiverse jungle and woodlands. As well as eroding the soil and reducing fertility, monocultures are more vulnerable to disease, drought and other impacts of climate breakdown.

The harsh reality is that current reforestation efforts are still not fast or large enough. They usually suffer from low survival and suboptimal growth, resulting in prohibitively high costs per survived tree. This is where technology can step in to optimize and accelerate the process, reduce costs and most importantly, deliver higher tree survival rates.

Seeding success

At Land Life Company, our team of scientists, arborists and data analysts are innovating across the entire reforestation value chain, starting by raising elite tree genotypes best-suited to local (often adverse) planting conditions.

The analysis from ground, drone and satellite data allows us to create site-specific planting designs, identifying the optimum seasons, conditions and interventions, while also taking into account soil and water conservation techniques.

Land Life Company’s automated planting machine plants 5-7 times faster and at a more consistent quality than conventional planting.

Planting at scale

Land Life has designed a planting machine that yields consistently high quality results at speed, covering large acreage within a short period of time. Here we can prescribe soil amendments to best establish tree seedlings depending on the particular conditions of the land and the environment. In degraded land, for example, we can plant seedlings with a Land Life Company Cocoon, our biodegradable tree incubator, which supports them during their first critical year to significantly improve survival rates.

Aside from covering the ground 5-7 times faster and more accurately than conventional methods,  planting at scale reduces wind speed and increases air humidity, thereby lowering transpiration losses per tree and soil evaporation. Automated planting not only improves the consistency and quality of tree planting, it is key to helping us reach our goal of planting over 10,000 hectares per year by 2020-2021.

At Land Life, we track the impact of our reforestation projects over time, storing data in our proprietary database and using breakthrough analysis capacity to improve our speed and efficiency.

Data-based and data-driven

Many reforestation efforts turn the page once tree seedlings are planted. At Land Life, we use remote sensing techniques to periodically monitor the development of every tree we plant, linking performance with site-specific soil and climate data.

Using our proprietary reforestation database, we generate data-driven planting protocols that, with the application of machine learning techniques, guide our automated planting machine and provide immediate and detailed feedback to our R&D and operations teams.

Unleashing new funds and new hope

The transparency created in the process also unleashes new waves of funding. Carbon capture can be calculated very precisely and frequently, changing the game of the current carbon crediting process that measures carbon stocks every five years. Improved tree performance and reliability start to give investors the confidence needed to deploy latent capital for natural climate solutions.

Climate change isn’t going away anytime soon and trees take time to grow. With environments changing so rapidly, the species planted today may be ill-suited to future climate conditions. Data-driven planting enables Land Life Company to run simulation models to forecast these scenarios and create resilient and future-proof planting configurations.

We are living in a moment of technological change, the next industrial revolution. Harnessing the power of data and technology to restore degraded land and create new carbon sinks should be our top priority.

Learn more about our data-driven approach to reforestation HERE

Contact us to discuss your climate agenda HERE