Working towards transparent and objective risk assessment and land use verification
Land use and land use change and its impacts on carbon stock and biodiversity is central to the sustainability debate. Priority areas for nature conservation like wetlands, peatlands, primary forests and protected areas are especially affected by land use change. Their conversion into cropland has severe effects like the release of significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the diminishment of biodiverse habitats has non-reversible consequences like the extinction of species. Beside environmental aspects social issues like working and general living conditions play a crucial role in the sustainability debate.
In the food, feed, chemical and biofuels sector voluntary as well as legal requirements exist that address the urging sustainability issues. An increasing number of standards and certification systems implement these requirements while using different approaches and verification processes. GRAS contributes to a more unifed and transparent verification. Hence, GRAS facilitates the certification process, lowers the costs for certification and lightens the burdens for farmers and companies. At the same time it increases the effectiveness and reliability of certification.
The objective of the GRAS project is to develop a tool that provides reliable information on biodiversity, carbon stock and social indices and allows the identification of land use change.
GRAS worked towards this objective on several work packages:
1. In a first step, a needs assessment was carried out. The results showed that not only auditors conducting sustainability certifications benefit from the tool but also companies that want to verify the sustainability of their biomass supplies. Furthermore, banks and investors can use the tool to line sustainable investment decisions. Another finding of the needs assessment was the broader coverage and integration of social issues in the tool.
2. In a second step available databases containing information about biodiversity were analyzed and their eligibility for the integration in the tool was assessed. Wherever necessary data sharing agreements with the respective data providers were established. Carbon maps showing the total carbon content of regions were calculated on the basis of internationally approved methodologies. Furthermore, information about social issues were gathered from renowned international organizations and on this basis a country-specific social indicator was calculated.
3. In a third step a research for eligible remote sensing data was conducted. Satellite images from various sources were assessed regarding their spatial and temporal resolution and coverage and their availability. Medium-resolution satellite images from MODIS were identified as most eligible for the identification of land use change in the period around 2008.
4. The development of a method to identify land use change was especially challenging. Remote sensing experts from Meo Carbon Solutions and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) worked closely together and succeeded in developing a sophisticated algorithm and analyzing method to identify land use change using medium-resolution satellite imagery. The applied algorithms have been verified and successfully tested on the ground. Several pilot assessments have shown the high accuracy and convincing performance of the tool.
5. Finally, a user-friendly web application was developed which combines and displays all the information in a straight-forward, easy-to-use way. Users can assess their own specific cases, ranging from the analysis of specific farms / plantations to the analysis of entire sourcing regions or countries. Results can be saved and documented in a report.The web application is available for selected pilot regions.
GRAS has been developed in a process which included the involvement of several stakeholders from agriculture, industry, trade, research, authorities and NGOs. Stakeholder workshops in which the tool was presented and discussed, took place in Europe, the Americas, and South East Asia. GRAS is not designed to remain in a steady-state after the ending of the project. GRAS will be continuously improved, administrators and developers will make sure that data sources will be updated and methods will be state of the art. Furthermore, GRAS always welcomes the contribution of stakeholders and users as they help GRAS to further enhance its services.
News and events
Honduras now available in the GRAS Tool
Honduras is now available in GRAS. The dataset includes layers on Land Use Change, Biodiversity, Carbon Stock and Social Data. GRAS will add more countries in Central America and other world regions soon.
March 13th 2018
We cordially invite you to join the free webinar on how to “Implement and Monitor Deforestation-Free Supply Chains” with GRAS, taking place on 13 March 2018, 10:00 am (CET) and 5:00 pm (CET). The webinar will give you an insight on new functionalities of GRAS, outline recent case studies and give the attendants the chance to ask their questions. Register for the webinar here.
March 2nd 2018
Addressing the sustainability of sugarcane
In the recent issue of Biofuels International, GRAS is presented as a secure and credible solution provider for companies to prove compliance with national and international sustainability regulations and corporate commitments. The article shows how GRAS can be used to identify deforestation and grassland conversion and determine the exact point in time the land use change took place. The full article can be found here.
February 27th 2018
Sub-national data on Acute Food Insecurity now online for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Food Security Classification data of FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning Systems Network) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is now available in GRAS. The dataset includes near and medium term projections, and is updated on a monthly basis.
February 21st 2018
Colombia, South Africa and Peru now available in the GRAS Tool
GRAS added Colombia, South Africa and Peru to the Web Tool. The datasets include layers on Land Use Change, Biodiversity, Carbon Stock and Social Data. More countries will follow soon.
January 31st 2018
GHG values for canola cultivation in Australia and Canada now online
GHG emission values for canola cultivation in Australia and Canada, officially acknowledged by the European Commission, are now available in GRAS. The values have been published in the Commission Implementing Decisions (EU) 2017/2356 and (EU) 2017/2379, respectively.
January 29th 2018
GRAS Fire Alert online now
The new GRAS Fire Alert function is now available for Indonesia and countries in South America. Beside the visualization of latest and historical fires within the tool, the user can now register for an e-mail alert. The user will be informed based on daily updates, in case a fire was identified within an area individually defined by himself.
January 11th 2018
GRAS article in ITC News
GRAS wrote an article in ITC News (2017-2), the alumni magazine of the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente. The article presents how GRAS provides solutions for a fact-based, objective and credible sustainability reporting and the support of efficient and reliable sustainability certification. The magazine contains results of an interdisciplinary workshop in Enschede, Netherlands.
January 10th 2018
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