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S4G Indonesia Diaries - Part 2

Deforestation Detection and Prediction

Following our last blog entry outlining ‘Space4Good Indonesia Diaries Part 1: The Great Orangutan Release’, our team prepared for the next step of their journey. Sitting in Jakarta’s airport lounge, they prepped for their campaign at the Arsari Enviro Industri ITCI site in East-Kalimantan, an area of around 250,000 ha of combined restoration areas, sustainable forestry concessions, mangroves, conservation sanctuaries and agroforestry. Space4Good has been monitoring this area for over 3 years now.

Figure 1. The ITCI staff working inside the area deploying their drone systems

From bustling Jakarta, our journey took us to Balikpapan, where we were warmly welcomed by Wisnu. A speedy boat ride across the bay led us to the ITCI site, where the familiar embrace of the Rimba (Jungle) room awaited us, along with the amiable staff of ITCI KU. Despite initial delays due to unforeseen flight cancellations, our team wasted no time delving into discussions over a sumptuous meal.

Figure 2. Lunchtime with outstanding food at ITCI Rimba room.

Our mission at ITCI formed part of a collaborative pilot project funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). The primary objective of this expedition was to assess the accuracy of our deforestation detection and prediction algorithm. Additionally, we aimed to introduce a feedback loop protocol with the local forest stewardship team, analyse the value addition for users of open-source data and enhance the delivery of information to facilitate forest protection operations and platform usability.

The first afternoon was focused on training the users with local police representatives and ITCI staff members Maldi (GIS expert), Sikun (ITCI botanist) and Aisar (drone pilot). Despite the language barrier, the team showcased the Space4Good Forests solution and explained the science and technology behind providing illegal logging detection and prediction. After introducing new components of the service offering to the team, the planning for the field campaign for the next day took shape. Part of the preparations were focused on where best to launch the drones to reduce time-in-field for safety purposes. By combining elevation data with canopy cover, our team was able to identify ideal drone launch sites the evening before the early morning field campaign departure. 

Figure 3. Showcasing the Space4Good Forests solution to the ITCI staff

As Day 2 dawned, the team prepared to head to deforestation sites further north, where there is extensive encroachment occurring. Here our partners see the greatest conversion of the forest to palm oil plantations. To visit the locations, an extensive review of the potential engagements needed to be assessed for safety. Due to the delicate nature of this conflict, whereby the new settlers claim that the land has been converted to agriculture for ages now, it has been difficult to 1. validate the encroachment and 2. confirm that this is not in line with land use seen thus far. This is where historical maps analysed by Space4Good Forests help the land managers better communicate realities to these workers to protect the land best. 

On arrival at the identified deforestation area, our team and partners were met with loud talking, were followed and otherwise a great deal of curiosity by the palm oil field workers. It was clear where the encroachment had occurred and to what extent it had affected the forest. To limit aggravating the conflict and discussions further, the team decided to move on swiftly to footage of deforested areas further away. The images were devastating.

Figure 4. Timelapse showing deforestation inside ITCI created with Planet basemaps.

In addition, the team validated a harvesting area, collecting footage for user training, and testing of the process under safe conditions. The team still wanted to get to the latest fire point provided by our Forests service, but unfortunately, it was getting dark so we had to go back to the main ITCI camp. All in all, despite running out of sunlight, the team was happy with the extent of work and ground covered.

Figure 5. Testing the Space4Good Forests solution during the field campaign day

Day 3 brought the team back behind their computers and into collaboration. Together, Lisa, Thijs, Mathieu and Max presented what is behind the platform, namely what happens before the alerts such as types of data, cleaning, satellites and validation processes. Additionally, accounts were set up while the air conditioning decided to take a day off. A complimentary addition to the presentation context and a nice reminder of the tropical context in which these forests flourish. The ITCI team then engaged in a workshop looking into the important adjustments to the service, reporting processes and data collection with their phones. while also considering what was feasible now and later. This was then followed by a prioritisation session and determination of the standardised approach that would then be taken forward.

Figure 6. ITCI staff and Space4Good team during the user training workshop

Figure 7. Wisnu outlining the priorities and future wishes during workshop

Furthermore, conducting interviews with the director of ITCI, Edy Purnomo, and his team over lunch further illuminated the challenges they face in the field. Indeed, for companies engaged in sustainable management of forests concession, there is a need to generate profit while conserving the forest's health and biodiversity for the next centuries. This could be done by long-term planning, rotating harvest areas, and adapting to climate change while strictly conserving the richest biodiversity such as mangroves or mountainous areas. Then, winning the battle against encroachment is first of all providing a new source of income to the local economy. For all these challenges, geospatial data and Space4Good Forests solution are crucial at all levels of the organisation and serve the need to deliver timely, on the daily used device and in the right format, the information they needed for daily operations, storytelling and reporting requirements.

Figure 8. Final team picture of the ITCI staff and Space4Good’s team.

As the second leg of their trip came to a close, the team prepared to leave ITCI from Balikpapan amidst a flurry of tropical rain. At the airport, our weary travellers bid adieu to Mathieu who needed to head back to home turf while they took a much-needed sit down before their third and final destination of Tomohon on the island of Sulawesi. Stay tuned for our final entry of the Space4Good Indonesia Diaries to learn more about the work on biomass mapping for young afforestation. 

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