ROOT: Mobile App Addresses Climate Change Threats in Forests

Harnessing technology: forest protection with real-time satellite data

Mon 08 May 23


Researchers at the University of Würzburg have successfully obtained 1.2 million euros (about $2 million Australian dollars) in funding for a new project addressing climate change-induced forest degradation.

As reported yesterday, ROOT is a geoinformation portal that utilises satellite data to provide forestry professionals with real-time updates on forest conditions across Bavaria, Germany, via a mobile app.

With rising temperatures and drought, climate change is causing forests to change at an accelerated rate. A satellite-based assessment by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in February 2022 revealed a loss of 501,000 hectares of trees in Germany between January 2018 and April 2021. These rapid changes pose significant challenges to the forestry and timber industries and scientific research.

Loss in forest inventory between 2018 (left) and 2021 (right). Red tones indicate vegetation and green areas represent tree loss. Dark red areas stand for vital coniferous forests whilst light red tones show healthy deciduous forests. This is in contrast to the area on the right where the tree inventory is dramatically reduced, light green areas show deforestation whilst dark green areas show dead trees. (Image credit: Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft)

Project Objectives

The ROOT (Real-time Earth Observation of Forest Dynamics and Biodiversity) project aims to tackle these challenges by developing a satellite data-driven geoinformation portal. This portal will display up-to-date forest conditions, empowering decision-makers, officials, and forestry professionals to make informed decisions and take timely action. The technology will be tested over three years and is expected to be rolled out to other regions subsequently.

Footage courtesy of @France24_en

One practical application of the app is its ability to detect small-scale bark beetle infestations automatically and precisely. This feature facilitates swift responses in removing affected trees from the forest, minimizing impacts on biodiversity, climate protection, and forestry. As a result, the ROOT project offers users a comprehensive tool to effectively address forest threats such as barren areas, standing deadwood, and forest loss.

Project Team and Funding

Led by project spokesperson Professor Samuel Kounev, the ROOT project team at JMU is dedicated to developing innovative solutions to climate change challenges affecting forests and their ecosystems. The team includes Claudia Künzer, Professor of Earth Observation and Director at DLR, and Jörg Müller, Forest Ecologist at the JMU Biocentre and Deputy Director of the Bavarian Forest National Park. Dr. Nikolas Herbst, head of the “Data Analytics Clouds” research group at Kounev’s chair, coordinates the project.

Launched last month, the project is funded by the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt), an institute of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. This investment demonstrates the potential of technology and scientific collaboration in mitigating the effects of climate change on forests and preserving vital ecosystems for future generations.


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