According to the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED) biomass is not allowed to be claimed as sustainable when it originates from land that has been converted into cropland after January 2008. Identifying these areas was an unsolved problem within the past years of sustainability assessment.
Land Use Change
Land use change (LUC) verification takes an important role within sustainability certification. The demand for arable land is growing, though land is a finite ressource. Thus, conversion of land for agriculture is regarded as unsustainable. Although LUC could refer to any change it is common sense that it generally describes the conversion of e.g. forest or any other land use category into agricultural land, especially arable land.
However, finding a reliable proof if and when LUC took place is rather difficult. There is no clear evidence on-site that gives hints if a field was converted 20 years or 20 months ago except for local witnesses or official land use documents. Reality shows that a good information source is often either not existing or not reliable.
But technology development of the past years makes it possible to have a good eye witness on-site almost everywhere, almost everytime (at least in high-frequent time steps): Satellites. We can actually see what happened and when it happened. GRAS offers an innovative solution to identify conversion of forest or grassland into agricultural cropland via analysis of up-to-date satellite imagery. GRAS in collaboration with experts from German Aerospace Center (DLR) use state-of-the-art methodology. Together we processed hundreds of gigabytes of remote sensing images from 2000 till today to detect LUC. Each 3 month we process new gigabytes of images to ensure an up-to-date result of LUC detection.
The methodology is based on detecting LUC from MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) greenness index time series (spatial resolution 250m x 250m, temporal resolution: 16 days). The index is called Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) with values range from 0 to 1, the higher the values the more green the soil cover is. From one EVI image we can differentiate between bare soil and green cover. From more than 300 EVI images in GRAS we can differentiate among the types of green cover, see the history of the land, and indeed detect LUC. Grassland would look like calm sea waves with minor changes around EVI value of 0.3-0.4 (see picture below). The same would apply for perennial trees such as rain forests but on a higher EVI value of about 0.6 (see second picture below). Conversion would appear as a clear change in those waves with a drop of EVI to a value below 0.2. Arable land used for crops always appears as very regular huge waves (see picture below).
GRAS greenness time series could be used for risk assessment, farm auditing and even for land use change scientific research
However, although EVI can give you the point of time when a change of land use appears it is hard to determine similar land use types, e.g. natural rain forest and palm oil plantation. For a clear identification, GRAS offers a tailored solution that manually analyses high resolution Landsat imagery. GRAS offers this service on demand.
For further information about the development of the GRAS LUC algorithm and EVI time series please read Methodology.
In addition, our partner Genscape Inc. develops an easy-to-use split-screen-tool. The tool makes it possible to conduct a quick visual before-after-evaluation of an area of interest and thus makes land use change visible 1:1. Genscape uses high-resolution aerial imagery (1-2 m) from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) from the years 2007 and 2012. GRAS prepares to implement this add-on-tool for USA:
News and events
GRAS is mentioned in an article of the recent issue of Biofuels International. The article presents how GRAS is used by the well-established certification scheme for support of its Integrity Program. The full article can be found here.
March 15th 2017
GRAS at the COP22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh
Marrakesh, November 12th 2016.
How business can tackle deforestation
GRAS is co-sponsoring the conference "How business can tackle deforestation", which will take place in Washington DC on April 3rd-4th 2017. The conference will provide practical guidance for the development and implementation of zero deforestation policies for business. More information can be found here.
Washington DC, April 3rd-4th 2017
Geo-Information for Palm Oil
GRAS has co-organized the workshop "Geo-information for palm oil" at the Insitut of Computer Science of the University of Osnabrück. The workshop discussed the use of SAR remote sensing data in the palm oil research. More information can be found here.
Osnabrück, February 8th 2017
Copernicus Master 2016
GRAS for sustainable palm oil production
GRAS and its strategic role for supporting sustainable palm oil production are presented in the article "Sustainability as a Success Factor for Palm Oil Producers Supplying the European Vegetable Markets" in the issue Vol. 16(1) 2016 of the Peer Reviewed Journal Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal (OPIEJ).
GRAS for sustainable biofuels
GRAS has presented on the fifth annual seminar of "Sustainability of Biofuels" of the German Association for Bioenergy (BBE) and the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP).
Berlin, November 17th 2016.
GRAS as easy tool for identification of land use change
GRAS is mentioned in an article in Biofuels International discussing the successful implementation of EU policy in the sustainability certification of biofuels for the EU market. In particular, in the article is described how auditors and companies can access GRAS to detect land use change, verify the protection of no-go areas and implement no-deforestation commitments.
GRAS at EEB's Action for Nature Conference in Brussels
GRAS has given a presentation on "The Use of Satellite Imagery and Remote Sensing" at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) Conference Action for Nature to be held in Brussels. The presentation will be part of the session "Better Enforcement of EU Environmental Laws".
Brussels, September 14th 2016.
Advantages of GRAS in the cosmetics and detergents sector
GRAS is presented in the article "Deforestation-free and traceable supply chains for the production of sustainable surfactants" in the July/August issue of the International Peer Reviewed Journal Household and Personal Care Today.
GRAS at EEB Annual Conference 2016 in Vienna
Vienna, September 26th 2016.
How companies can implement and monitor their no-deforestation commitments
GRAS is presented in an article of eco-business as a possible solution for companies to implement and monitor their zero-deforestation commitments. The GRAS Tool provides comprehensive sustainability-related information on biodiversity, carbon stock, land use change and social indices.
GRAS as a tool to guarantee sustainable bioenergy
GRAS is presented in an article in the EU Bioenergy blog discussing the verification and monitoring of sustainable biomass production. The GRAS Tool is described as one of the solutions to guarantee that biomass is produced sustainably and that biodiveristy and carbon stock areas are protected.
How does GRAS work?
Get to know GRAS better and learn what it can do for you and your business.