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OU space expertise to survey UK tree population

Aerial view of trees

OU researchers have just received funding to identify the species, size and condition of trees in the UK through remote sensing techniques, with a view to ultimately applying these techniques from space.

The project in collaboration with 2Excel geo, remote sensing technology provider, will be funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

OU academics, led by Dr Kadmiel Maseyk, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences, will work with 2Excel geo to develop ground-validation datasets for the mapping, monitoring and species identification of trees in urban and non-urban environments from airborne platforms. This data will help local authorities to enhance the management of green infrastructure in urban environments and enable woodland and land managers to improve woodland and forest health and productivity.

The study will use different scales of hyperspectral Earth Observation data such as that from a commercial airborne imaging spectrometer and from a cutting-edge drone-mounted non-imaging system. It will also incorporate the UK’s largest urban tree map, from the Treezilla citizen science platform, which was developed by the OU, providing unprecedented ground-validation of tree species and location.

Dr Maseyk said: “The OU has a strong research capability in space technology and in particular, developments in Earth Observation. The complementary areas of ground- and space-level data coming together means that our analysis of this data can provide expert validation for key applications.

“This project with 2Excel geo is of great interest as with a strong eco-physiology background – including involvement in the Treezilla project to map and record Britain’s trees using citizen science – the consideration of the shift to urbanisation and the impact on maintaining a healthy, green infrastructure in urban environments is a vital area of research.”

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