Mongabay Explains: How high-tech tools are used for successful reforestation

  • This Mongabay Explains’ episode is part of a four-part Mongabay mini-series that examines the latest technological solutions to help tree-planting projects achieve scale and long-term efficiency.
  • Using these innovative approaches could be vital for meeting international targets to repair degraded ecosystems, sequester carbon, and restore biodiversity.
  • Advanced computer modeling, machine learning, drones, niche models using data, robotics and other technologies are helping to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of lost and degraded forest worldwide.

This Mongabay Explains episode is part of a four-part Mongabay mini-series exploring the latest technological solutions to support reforestation. Read Part One, Part Two , Part Three and Part Four.

“Plant a tree!” has over recent decades become a hackneyed ecological rallying cry for numerous mega-reforestation projects hyped in the media by celebrities, companies and governments.

In recent years, the global call for forest restoration has grown louder as the world faces the escalating challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. However, the reality often falls short of the ambitious international goals set, leaving a trail of failed projects. The complexities and costs of traditional reforestation methods have sparked a search for innovative solutions, and technology is emerging as a powerful ally in the battle to restore our forests.

Cutting-edge computer modeling and machine learning are now at the forefront of tree-planting initiatives. These technologies enable the identification of a diverse array of native species that are best suited to thrive in the specific local conditions of a given area, both today and in the face of a warming climate. By tailoring reforestation strategies to these specific conditions, the chances of success increase significantly.

Drones, too, have become a game-changer in large-scale tree planting, particularly in remote and inaccessible locations. These unmanned aerial vehicles can efficiently sow seeds in areas that were once difficult to reach, reducing the manual effort required and expanding the scope of reforestation efforts. This innovation not only accelerates the process but also enhances the success rate of tree establishment.

However, the technological revolution doesn’t end with planting alone. Monitoring the progress of young forests is crucial for long-term success. Satellite-based and on-site sensors are now being deployed to track the growth and health of newly planted trees, something that has often been lacking in traditional reforestation projects. Importantly, these technological monitoring systems come at a lower cost than many conventional methods, making them a viable option for sustainable forest restoration.

More episodes available on Mongabay Explains’ YouTube playlist.