Managing family forests to fight climate change

Purdue University has received approximately $9 million of a $35 million project led by the American Forest Foundation and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnership for Climate Smart Commodities to help family forest owners practice climate-smart forestry in Indiana and eight other states. The project could sequester an estimated 4.9 million tons of atmospheric carbon, a greenhouse gas that affects climate, over 20 to 30 years.

Purdue’s cross-disciplinary Integrated Digital Forestry Initiative, led by Dean’s Chair of Remote Sensing Songlin Fei, will use advanced digital forestry technologies to do the measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon sequestrations that the project requires. The automated technology will be based on data collected by satellites and drones with various sensors. The team will also develop a simulation system that generates optimized forest management scenarios.

The work will result in a web-based tool that landowners can use to estimate and predict the climate-smart commodity market potential of their properties, and a smartphone-based app for tree measurement and monitoring.

American families own nearly 40% of the nation’s forests, yet few take part in forest carbon projects or work from a management plan. The project partners aim to enroll 1,600 landowners, who control a total of over 160,000 acres, into the Family Forest Carbon Program, which the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy developed. Landowners will receive economic incentives for participating in the program.

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