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How AI Can Enhance Canopy Cover Analysis for Forestry

Gazelle Ecosolutions

3 min read

What is Forestry Canopy Cover?

In forestry management, a lot of industry professionals will discuss canopy cover as a proxy for the health of the land they’re analyzing. In all cases, canopy cover calculates the percentage of a forest covered by the vertical projection stemming from tree crowns. This coverage consists of the plant crowns, including leaves, branches, and stems, that form a layer over the ground when viewed from above. The canopy can be divided into upper, mid, and lower layers, with the tallest plants forming the upper canopy.

How is Canopy Cover Useful?

Understanding canopy cover is important for several reasons, one particularly important one is tree health. The reason for this being that tree health depends on factors such as nutrition, water access, disease, pest infestations, and stress. For instance, a continuous canopy is often seen in primary forests, whereas a discontinuous canopy can indicate that what you’re seeing is  orchards.

Additionally, not only is canopy cover essential to forestry management, but general environmental monitoring, too. Forestry companies, conservation organizations, and government agencies rely on canopy cover data to manage forests sustainably, assess tree health, and monitor changes in forest ecosystems. Say–for instance–a hurricane occurred and a lot of trees as a result have come down due to the severe winds coming from harsh thunderstorms. Analyzing canopy cover can assist with assessing the impact of high winds on a certain area. Regarding conservation practices, accurate canopy cover data can guide practices that promote sustainable forest growth and regeneration.


How it’s Being Analyzed Now

An image of a drone doing a spectral reading on a tree

Currently, canopy cover is analyzed using various methods, including remote sensing and field surveys. Remote sensing technologies, such as satellite imagery and aerial photography, allow for large-scale canopy cover assessments. Analysts use algorithms like Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), and Leaf Area Index (LAI) to measure canopy cover from remotely sensed data.

Advanced tools like ArcGIS facilitate these analyses, enabling the classification of land use and land cover (LULC). These tools are often used by remote sensing analysts that have spent years in training either at colleges or workplaces able to afford these expensive software packages. Supervised or unsupervised classification methods help in mapping and monitoring canopy cover changes over time.


How it Can Be Improved

While current methods are effective, there is potential for improvement through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and remote sensing technologies. An AI remote sensing bot–for example–can automate the canopy cover assessment process, making it more efficient and tailored to specific needs.

Using AI for LULC assessments can provide customized algorithms that consider factors like color, title, area size, ecosystem, and region. This customization can enhance accuracy and relevance, particularly for report generation and comparative analyses over time.

Introducing Gazelle

Gazelle is an AI remote sensing tool able to handle all aspects of earth observation once reserved to large corporations with the manpower and talent to do so. One particular aspect being designed to conduct automated canopy cover analysis. By leveraging AI, Gazelle can streamline the process of analyzing canopy cover, integrating Google Earth ngine queries and other remote sensing data sources. This AI-driven approach can offer precise, real-time insights into forest health and canopy coverage, aiding in better decision-making for forestry management and conservation efforts.

Gazelle's capabilities include:

  • Automating canopy cover assessments with high accuracy.

  • Customizing LULC algorithms to meet specific user requirements using only queries.

  • Generating detailed reports and comparisons of canopy cover over time.

By working with Gazelle’s AI system, forestry managers, environmental scientists, and general analysts can enhance their monitoring and management practices. Not only to just ensure sustainable practices, but also amplify those same practices with quick and easy remote sensing technology.

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