Measuring the forest with R-evolution’s Green Cubes and Cool Earth

Is it possible to measure a forest? How many shades of green are there in a jungle? How many voices make up the choir of the dawn chorus? Describing the complexity of an ecosystem is quite a challenge, let alone one as diverse as a rainforest. R-evolution’s Green Cubes has a solution.

These are the sorts of questions the team at R-evolution have been asking and with the power of Hexagon technology they’re finding answers. An exciting new partnership in the pipeline with Cool Earth promises to multiply the potential even further.

The general public has rightly become cynical of corporate sustainability claims. The problem is fundamentally one of measurement and data.

It’s very easy to sponsor a tree, but what do we really know beyond that? Where is this tree? What species is it? What about its place in the wider ecosystem? Is it thriving or merely surviving? What is the actual impact of this tree today? There are no guarantees that every sapling will reach maturity. It’s over-optimistic to base carbon accounting on the presumption every tree will reach 50 years of age, let alone 100 or more.

Dividing up the forest into “green cubes”

This is one of the great things about R-evolution’s Green Cubes project. A “green cube” is a cubic meter of rainforest that a company can sponsor and in so doing they protect that area of forest. The project is about protecting mature trees that are already playing a key role in their respective ecosystems rather than planting new trees which is fraught with problems. Secondly, they’re using Hexagon technology to precisely measure and map the forest. This is providing a level of transparency and accountability that is sometimes missing from corporate sustainability claims.

Taking the latest technology to the jungle: R-evolution’s Andrew Kerr (Forest R&D Lead) uses the Leica BLK 360 to create a digital twin of the forest

Cutting edge tools for precise analysis

The Leica CountryMapper Hybrid Airborne Sensor is a combined LiDAR and imaging system that fits on the bottom of an aircraft. From that viewpoint it creates a 3D model of the forest down to just a few centimeters of accuracy. The team uses this real-time volumetric data to create a digital twin of a forest, and this isn’t their only data source. They go into the jungle, under the canopy, with the handheld Leica BLK360 scanner  and work on the level of individual trees. This allows them to precisely quantify the biomass of each tree. On top of that they use camera traps, sound recording equipment and soil samples to scientifically quantify the complexity and the richness of the forest ecosystem.

It’s practically impossible to count all the species in these diversity hotspots but based on these methods, the team is working on their own diversity unit. By scientifically quantifying the ecosystem’s health and complexity, this strategy provides a nuanced understanding of the ecosystem. It highlights the importance of each organism in these biodiversity hotspots.

Capturing in the complexity of the rainforest by dividing it into green cubes

Green Cubes brings together vast data sources and the latest technology and the result is a much more sophisticated approach to environmental protection and carbon accounting.

The leadership team consists of just a handful of people, but because of their partnerships with Hexagon, with the University of Vienna and others they have a very big impact. Another partnership is in the pipeline, this time with Cool Earth, announced on their website a few weeks ago.

The collaborative power of green cubes

Hexagon has been supporting Cool Earth for some time now, but now R-evolution is bringing a whole new dynamic to the collaboration.

This is from Cool Earth’s blog on the partnership :

“In collaboration with Hexagon’s innovation arm, R-evolution, we’re exploring how we can scale up our forest monitoring with new potential for measuring and modeling the outcomes of changes — an innovative approach they call the “Smart Digital Reality” for nature.

“This partnership is a testament to the power of collaboration, harnessing the power of people, technology, and innovation to educate, empower, and evolve the approach to tackling the climate crisis.

“This impact cannot be delayed. The rainforest needs our attention, and it needs it now.”

The power of this partnership is in the mix of technology, nature and human creativity. These things may sound totally at odds but in reality they are closely related.

It paints an inspiring picture of a more involved and more collaborative world. One that’s transparent, accountable and proactive in safeguarding our environment. Expect more details on the next steps of this collaboration in the coming weeks and months.

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