Forestry TEP well received in ESA’s Living Planet Symposium

About 3,000 earth observation professionals from academia, research organizations and industry assembled for the fifth Living Planet Symposium in Prague in early May.

Recent developments in the Forestry Thematic Exploitation Platform (F-TEP) were presented in a dedicated TEP session. An additional specific meeting for all six TEPs was also held. In the exhibition hall the participants could discuss bilaterally with the TEP representatives at the TEP booth. Interested participants could also pick up more information on F-TEP and other TEPs from new project flyers and promotion videos.

The positive feedback garnered by the Forestry TEP suggests that new approaches in earth observation value adding are welcomed by users. The range of interested delegates included ecosystem modelers, earth observation service providers and international forest and climate policy makers. So, the potential F-TEP user base expands far beyond traditional academia. All of them expect F-TEP to offer smooth access to forestry value-adding services – preferably now. The hardest part of our discussions was asking delegates to wait patiently until F-TEP started to deliver services, planned for early 2017. For now we will offer through this portal updated information on the development status of F-TEP and other interesting news in the field of earth observation for forestry.

ESA is proposing significant investment into TEP related development within the Fifth Earth Observation Envelope Program, which runs from 2017 to 2021. The ESA member states will decide the final subscription level in the ESA Council at Ministerial Level in December but it can be expected that investment in data value adding activities, such as the TEPs, will grow substantially.

Within the research domain the Living Planet Symposium presentations showed that more effort is focusing on automating processing chains to compute value added results. The huge data volumes regularly acquired from Sentinel-2, for instance, both enable and urge changing the processing concepts. Another emerging area of interest is an objective, statistical accuracy assessment of the results. Several papers also reported inclusion of a reliability estimate for each pixel of a thematic map produced.

The maturity of radar image analysis methods is lower than with the optical data and most forestry applications are in a research stage and still largely unsettled.

Finally, open source software is taking over from proprietary software and becoming the norm for data processing. For instance the Sentinel toolboxes or ‘SNAP’ software is completely open source. The F-TEP will offer an easy-to-use compilation of open source tools to satisfy forestry user’s needs and proprietary tools for the most demanding customers.
Happy people at the TEP stand of ESA
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