Using Earth observation to improve impact

Earth observation is continuously improving, and FSC is utilising this technology internally and through strategic partnerships to improve our transparency and our services to stakeholders. Geographic information system (GIS) mapping of certified forest area is just the beginning.

FSC Innovation Earth observation / koto_feja

GIS & spacial analytics

Spatial analytics allows FSC to evaluate and track impacts on the ground, and pinpoint areas for improvement. Satellite analysis of our certified forest areas will help us to identify areas where FSC has contributed to the preservation of forests. It will also indicate where certified forests are under pressure and require a more watchful eye.

Having a GIS-based map of certified forest areas is the first step towards being able to implement risk-based auditing, where auditors could perform part of their evaluation remotely, and be informed in real-time about whether logging or other activities are happening.

This means that sample plots could be pre-selected based on image analysis. Auditors would be able to devote more time to elements which cannot be assessed remotely, for example, the social criteria of the FSC standards.

GIS monitoring and analytics would also be a cost effective way for forest managers to verify ecosystem services, and help forest owners around the globe gain access to additional revenue streams when managing their forests sustainably.

Earth Observation map


The implementation of GIS tools is a core focus area for FSC. In 2019 we released our first GIS-based maps. Stakeholders are now able to digitally identify FSC-certified forest areas on top of a satellite imagery basemap. Only certified areas voluntarily provided by forest managers are presented on the map at this time.

In 2020 we will focus most of our GIS capacity on developing a GIS verification platform to be implemented. The intention of the platform is to enable satellite monitoring and analysis of certified forest areas according to the selected FSC requirements from FSC Principles and Criteria. The information will be used to inform certification bodies about changes in the forest coverage and its location against main forest management features during the year before an audit. This will help auditors identify areas to be visited during the physical audit and ensure that we focus audit attention to areas of changes and risk.  

The project is expected to be released for test and implementation during Q4 2020.

Using Earth observation to revolutionise FSC certification

We see great potential in Earth observation (EO) for researchers, governments, investors and non-governmental organizations, who would be able to verify the impact of certification. We believe that this could increase opportunities for forest owners who are looking for financial support.

We know that for many smallholders around the world, preparing for an FSC certification is expensive and that obtaining a forest inventory in itself can be a challenge. Part of the long-term vision for this initiative is to explore the potential of GIS and EO to address these challenges.

forests for the future


Forest for the future podcast series. Episode 2: How is GIS innovating FSC audits? Interviews with Joanna Nowarowska and Andrés Felipe Ramírez

07.05.2020. In this episode we will be looking into how FSC is utilizing GIS tools to innovate the way audits are being informed and even performed. We will be diving into how GIS based tools can help FSC provide digital solutions to the new challenges we are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because how does a certification system like FSC function, if auditors can’t travel and get on the ground? GIS based verification may be part of the answer.

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