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A Landsat 8 image of New Zealand’s Egmont National Park, established in 1900, shows the benefits and limitations of protected areas. An isolated island of protected forest (dark green areas) is surrounded by once-forested pasturelands (light and brown green). The Forests 2020 initiative hopes to protect forests in other parts of the world. (Credit: NASA/USGS)

As part of the UK Space Agency’s recently launched International Partnership Programme (IPP) and its related Forests 2020 project, the agency awarded a contract worth more than £14 million to sustainability software and data company Ecometrica. The Forests 2020 project is expected to help countries improve management and protection across 300 million hectares of tropical forests.

The IPP, with total funding of  £150 million, brings together British space knowledge, expertise and capability to “provide a sustainable, economic or societal benefit to undeveloped nations and developing economies.”

For the Forests 2020 project, Ecometrica will sub-contract experts from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leicester and fellow Edinburgh company Carbomap, a specialist in LiDAR forest mapping. The project also will see Ecometrica bring together partners in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico, where Earth-observation laboratories will be set up to assess threats to rainforests and help direct conservation resources.

“The program will identify innovative ways that space technology can help in this important area, which has been identified by the UN as key for sustainable development,” said Ray Fielding, head of the IPP. “We intend to make a real difference to the people on the ground working to preserve the world’s forests.”

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