Supporting REDD+ Activities and National Forest Inventories with Copernicus Satellite Data in Central and East Africa

Motivation & Objectives


Since forests can absorb large amounts of CO2, they play an important role in global climate protection. In order to reduce progressive deforestation and forest degradation, particularly in developing countries, the UNFCCC has initiated the climate protection program REDD+. It offers developing countries financial incentives to avoid deforestation and forest degradation and thus reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions.


Before the countries can claim the funding, they must also provide evidence that they are actually reducing deforestation and/or converting to more sustainable forest management. REDD+ reporting requires the identification of changes in forest area and use and the determination of the associated emission factors (= change in CO2 pools). This data is called "activity data". National forest monitoring systems often use satellite data available free of charge, e.g. the Landsat and Sentinel missions. The reporting is carried out at different quality levels, the so-called "TIERS", where TIER 1 is the lowest quality level and TIER 3 the highest.

So far, only a few forest monitoring systems went beyond TIER 1 level. Earth observation technologies have been applied for mapping and monitoring of deforestation areas and land use types. However, forest degradation, a gradual long-term process with often only partial loss of forest functions and ecosystem services, is generally not included in Activity Data, although it is a major driver of CO2 emissions. More sustainable forms of agricultural use, such as agroforestry systems, are also not yet included in the Activity Data. The automation of such monitoring systems yet has been implemented only to a limited extent.


The temporal and spectral characteristics of the sentinel satellites in combination with 3D data (stereo, LiDAR) and in situ forest inventories offer a high potential for improving current "REDD+ Measurement, Reporting and Verification" systems. The REACTIFI project will investigate this potential in more detail and lead to enhanced monitoring systems.

Project duration 01.07.2020-30.06.2022.

Fig. Examples of different forest changes and degradation types.

Fig. Examples of different forest changes and degradation types.



The methodological developments in REACTIFI are focused on four thematic areas

  1. development of new methods of time series analysis for REDD+ forest monitoring and CO2 assessment based on Copernicus Sentinel-1 &-2 data
  2. improving the quality of activity data by including forest degradation, agroforestry systems and land use changes
  3. calculation of precise reference data for carbon stocks of different forest types and LULC classes from 3D tree models (stereo, LiDAR) and terrestrial forest inventory. These more accurate carbon stock reference data will be combined with improved activity data to significantly improve the accuracy of country-specific emission factors.
  4. Set-up and operational test of a functional REDD+ service prototype for Uganda on a Copernicus Cloud Processing Service (e.g. DIAS)


The aim of the REACTIFI project is to develop a service prototype tailored to "REDD+ Measurement, Reporting and Verification" (MRV) for the Forest Inventory (FI) in Central and East Africa based on Copernicus satellite image data. This web-based service prototype provides up-to-date information on forest condition and carbon loss from deforestation and forest degradation in different forest and land use categories.

All developments take place in close cooperation with the National Forest Authority in Uganda. The prototype will be tested in Uganda, a priority country of the Austrian Development Aid (ADA). REACTIFI will contribute to further improvement of Uganda's REDD+ reporting capacities. The scientific project results also promote the future integration of Copernicus data and earth observation technologies in the field of REDD+ MRV. The link of our developments to existing REDD+ tools should be achieved, among others, by an extension to Open Foris / SEPAL.

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