Unlocking Nature’s Secrets: Drones and AI Revolutionize Forest Inventories

When one thinks of tropical forests, images of vast, lush green canopies come to mind. Yet, beneath these canopies, particularly in mangroves, lies a daunting challenge: How do we determine the carbon stock of such vast regions, especially when they're hard to navigate and assess? Enter drones and the power of (AI).

Mapping Mangroves with Modern Technology

Mangrove forests, known for storing vast amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in their biomass and soils, play a pivotal role in our fight against climate change. Astonishingly, they harbor between four to 20 billion tons of organic carbon globally. But, given their remote nature and challenging terrain, obtaining precise carbon estimates for these tidal forests has been a tough nut to crack.

Traditional methods involve physically measuring a tree's height and diameter on-site, often amid mosquito swarms and murky, waist-deep sediment. And yet, these efforts could yield only rough estimates due to the forests' inherent variability.

Desiring a comprehensive and efficient solution, scientists from the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) decided to leverage modern technology.

“We were looking for new techniques to cover the entire forest area and enable regular monitoring,” reveals Daniel Schürholz, the study's lead author. “The more detailed the information about the trees in a forest, the more precise the calculation of stored carbon.”

A Game-Changing Approach in Utría National Park

The team's focus shifted to Utría National Park on 's Pacific coast, home to vast mangrove forests. With assistance from park rangers and researchers from Colombia's Universidad del Valle, they deployed drones to capture aerial images of the forest canopy.

When One Thinks Of Tropical Forests, Images Of Vast, Lush Green Canopies Come To Mind. Yet, Beneath These Canopies, Particularly In Mangroves, Lies A Daunting Challenge: How Do We Determine The Carbon Stock Of Such Vast Regions, Especially When They'Re Hard To Navigate And Assess? Enter Drones And The Power Of Artificial Intelligence (Ai).

Navigating a mangrove forest near Bragança in can be quite challenging. Photo by Martin Zimmer, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research.

These high-resolution images were transformed into detailed mosaics back at ZMT in Bremen, outshining even the clarity of satellite imagery. The real magic, however, lay in the team's application of AI.

Schürholz shares, “Given the current advances in artificial intelligence, we decided to test cutting-edge techniques to automatically detect individual trees in the forest.”

The result? An AI workflow that could pinpoint individual trees, gauge their height, and assess the canopy's diameter. The outcomes were impressive.

“Using our AI workflow, we calculated, for example, that there are 19,717 trees of the endemic mangrove species Pelliciera rhizophorae in the area studied,” says Arjun Chennu, a ZMT habitat mapping expert.

Achieving such precision manually would have been almost impossible.

The Broader Implications and Future Endeavors

But it's not just about counting trees. Chennu points out that this fusion of and AI could also track illegal logging, detect invasive species, or monitor changes in animal and plant communities.

Their findings have broader implications: equipping conservationists with reliable data to bolster mangrove protection efforts. Schürholz is reportedly optimistic about the future.

“The current hype around cutting-edge AI algorithms should also be applied to environmental issues to improve our understanding of the natural world,” he advocates.

He envisions AI revealing intricate details about nature, enhancing our protective and sustainable management efforts. This method could transcend mangroves.

“We are providing a good blueprint for a system that can be used around the globe,” Schürholz notes.

From coral reefs to temperate forests, and even tracking animals, the potential applications are vast, promising a brighter future for environmental research and conservation.

Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Proposed legislation threatens your ability to use drones for fun, work, and safety. The Drone Advocacy Alliance is fighting to ensure your voice is heard in these critical policy discussions.Join us and tell your elected officials to protect your right to fly.

Drone Advocacy Alliance
Follow us on Google News!

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © DroneXL.co 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from DroneXL.co is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: DroneXL.co is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3668

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.