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QuickBird Satellite Imagery Allows Foresters To Discern Individual Trees 03.14.2003

March 14, 2003
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CLC-Camint uses space photos for forestry management and planning.

DigitalGlobe announced that its QuickBird satellite imagery is being used by Canada's CLC-Camint Inc. to identify individual tree crowns in forest areas. With the ability to delineate and classify tree crowns, forestry professionals will have a better methodology for generating forest inventories and managing forestry practices, potentially saving the forestry industry millions of dollars.

Over the past few years, CLC-Camint has validated and is bringing to the market the Individual Tree Crown (ITC) methodology using high-resolution space photos. This unique methodology was developed by Dr. Fran¿s A. Gougeon, from the Canadian Forest Service (CFS), a well-known researcher in the international scientific community. Gougeon and CLC-Camint have worked closely over the past three years to get the most pertinent forest information out of high-resolution imagery using the ITC methodology.

CLC-Camint uses QuickBird imagery to develop a geographic information system (GIS)-based, ready-to-use information product called the ITC Forest Cover Map. Using 60-centimeter panchromatic and 2.44-meter multispectral QuickBird imagery, CLC-Camint creates a digital information layer depicting each tree crown as a unique entity, which is further classified by species type, such as fir, white pine, aspen, birch, spruce, cedar or maple. Yielding a highly precise portrait of the forest cover, these maps help forestry professionals create accurate inventories and could be useful for environmental stress assessments, change detection and wildlife habitat management.

Several forest management applications will benefit from the ITC Forest Cover Maps, including:

  • Analyzing species spatial distribution in forests
  • Monitoring forest cover fragmentation
  • Optimizing forest fire management
  • Assessing wildlife habitats
  • Planning forest road networks

According to Labrecque, the ITC Forest Cover Map will be valuable to the forest industry because it will help reduce forest planning costs and eliminate the need for the costly aerial surveys traditionally used for map updating.

"Forest maps created using ground surveys and medium-scale aerial photographs become outdated very rapidly due to sustained forest activities. With QuickBird, we get an accurate reading of current forest activities at a more affordable cost," said Labrecque.

Labrecque added that regulatory and environmental concerns (ISO 14001, SFI and FSC) put pressure on forestry companies to have detailed, up-to-date records of forests prior to logging. By acquiring this knowledge using QuickBird imagery, his company can respond to such concerns quickly.

In research mode, the CFS has been using airborne multispectral and hyperspectral sensors for forest classification for over two decades. "Our cumulative results show the valuable potential of high-resolution satellite imagery to produce forest cover maps with good species discrimination," said Gougeon of the CFS. "However, the high cost of airborne missions and the difficulties associated with mosaicing together multiple images to cover large areas have often chilled the hopes of many foresters who dreamed of a large-scale remote sensing application. By contrast, QuickBird allows us to deal with a map-size forested area with a single image, simplifying and streamlining the image analysis task," he said.

CLC-Camint purchased its QuickBird imagery through RADARSAT International, DigitalGlobe's sole Canadian reseller of DigitalGlobe products.

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