Can Money Grow On Trees?

Posted on


“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, goes the old saying. And for forests, high quality measurements leads directly to cost savings, improved operational efficiencies and minimising of investment risk.

Carbomap specialises in the mapping of forests from the air and from satellite.   Our patent pending approach is like an MRI scanner for forests — full 3D information on the health and  state of the forest canopy that allows better management and minimising the risk of loss from, for example, forest fires.

The Market

The current market for measuring forests is in timber production and forest management.   The future opportunity is the investment into avoiding deforestation worldwide, which is expected to see an injection of more than £10bn per year by the end of this decade.

Already the total value of global trade in timber was estimated at more than £30 billion in 2013, and is expected to rise at least in line with human population growth.  Additionally, there are growing trends towards sustainable forestry. In 2012 the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) came into force. This restricts the supply of timber from illegal logging which is believed to  account for possibly as much as 40% of all timber supplies.   Monitoring illegal logging is most effectively done using mapping from aircraft or satellites, and Carbomap are experts in both.

The role of LiDAR (airborne laser scanning) is already recognised in the industry. A recent study by FP Innovations in Canada indicated net savings of £1.00/m³ on the net value of wood when using LiDAR-enhanced forest inventory data.   Given that you might expect in the region of 100 m³ of usable wood per hectare, and that the LiDAR data can also be used for a range of other useful information, this easily justifies the investment in LiDAR mapping.  In another recent study in the USA total cost savings that were estimated to result from conducting a national LiDAR map ran to more than £8 billion per year (with around 5% of that directly related to better forest management).

Environmental mapping (or “environmental intelligence”) is now growing rapidly.  This year, the World Bank aims to launch a $1 billion fund in July to map the mineral resources of Africa, using satellites and airborne surveys.  It is likely that the data collection will also include forest resources.

Trees As An Investment

Trees themselves also increasingly being seen as an investment opportunity, with a rate of return as much as 10-13%.  The rate of return is expected to become even greater when carbon is included in the value of the forest.

Carbon constitutes 50% of the dry matter than makes up trees. That carbon was “captured” through photosynthesis. Forests are therefore part of the global economics of carbon. In 2012 carbon finance businesses injected $216m into projects that plant trees, avoid deforestation, improve forest management, and support low-carbon agriculture.  $14.5 bn total amount of public finance already pledged to combat deforestation through mechanisms such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

Any such global programme will  need to include comprehensive monitoring and accounting systems at the national scale. Indeed, a key tenet of REDD is that it is performance-based, meaning that financial rewards only go to those who can demonstrate results. For this reason, “Forest monitoring, measurement, reporting and verification (MMRV) systems are the backbone of performance-based systems for REDD+.”

The capacity to accurately measure forest carbon and change is therefore at the heart of any mechanism to reduce deforestation and improve forest management worldwide. Forest carbon stocks, as well as their change over time, will need to be quantified – for management, for optimising return from forest investments, and for complying with international policy directives. The global market for “carbon market intelligence” is already substantial. Market researchers K-Matrix identified that within this broad market, monitoring of forests for the purpose of carbon intelligence had a total market value of £1.6bn (in 2009/10).

Carbomap provides the unique services necessary to quantify forest carbon, improve forest management and reduce the risk from fire.

If you would like to help map the world’s forest and make a return on your investment at the same time, then check out our pitch on ShareIn and make an investment.



How much money could a nationwide LiDAR map save

Maybe money does grow on trees

International trade in logs and timber worth 50 billion in 2013

World Bank eyes $1 billion African resource mapping fund in July

Tags: , , ,