We treasure our forests as wildlife habitats and peaceful, technology-free refuges where we can submerse ourselves in nature and forget the industrialized world outside. But not all technology is invasive, and some forms of it can actually help us preserve forests for generations to come.
We’ve already reported on how organizations like the Nature Conservancy are using new digital tools to make life much easier for timber managers, conservationists, park services and fire control to keep forests alive and thriving. Now, everyone from lumber producers to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations are using open-source information technology systems to achieve zero-deforestation supply chains, and experts predict that IT will continue to be a powerful driver in sustainable forest management in years to come.
According to a press release by the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), these technologies could enable detection of illegal logging operations and unchecked deforestation, and prevent the deprivation of sustainable livelihood opportunities for smallholders and local communities.
One example is the Connected Forest system by Trimble Forestry, which offers solutions for collecting, communicating and analyzing real-time information across and throughout the forestry business. Functions include harvest logistics, streamlined timber receiving at mill gates, the ability to analyze data from disparate mill sources, simplified financial transactions and management of the entire raw materials lifecycle from planning and planting to transporting and processing.
Researchers are also creating reference libraries of tree DNA that can confirm the true origin of timber that’s ready for export, ensuring that it wasn’t illegally harvested. Similar libraries could be created using other types of technology, like “automated wood anatomy,” which works like facial recognition for trees. Cracking down on illegal logging is an essential component of fighting deforestation and safekeeping sustainable, legal timber business.
“We have already seen the proliferation of technology in the tracing and validation of legality in forest-derived commodities,” says Kavickumar Muruganathan of Halycon Agri. “Scaling up and integrating the various technologies into existing forest certification systems would be the next step that all stakeholders in the forestry sector should collectively work towards.”