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
Fire season at its peak in South America
The wildfire season of South America is currently at its peak of activity. Stay informed about the latest detected fires in your area of interest and receive a fire alert via e-mail, updated on a daily basis.
October 17th 2018
GRAS at the Sustainable Landscapes Conference, London, 6-7 Nov 2018
Dr. Mohammad Abdel-Razek will present how businesses can support smallholders integration. The Sustainable Landscapes Conference of the Innovation Forum takes place on 6th November 2018 in London. Join GRAS in the session: Farmers - How can business help provide smallholders with the necessary finance and funding that they need?
September 30th 2018
New GRAS Index functionality available
You have now the option to adjust the weighting factors of the GRAS Index of your assessment in the GRAS Tool according to case-and region specific preferences!
September 15th 2018
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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