October 13, 2020

VTT creating digital forest twin for European Space Agency

An aerial view of a coniferous forest.
A VTT-led consortium has been tasked with reproducing a forest digitally for the European Space Agency.
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A VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland-led consortium has been selected to develop the precursor of a digital forest twin for the European Space Agency (ESA).

The digital reproduction can be utilised to model the growth and health of a forest area, chart changes in the carbon stock of the area, and make predictions about how such factors will change in different climatic scenarios.

“The digital twin will provide information about carbon circulation in forests and how much people’s actions affect the carbon stock of forests,” stated Matti Mõttus, a senior researcher at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). “I hope this will become a key tool for researchers, decision-makers and businesses that helps them to understand the significance of forests in the big picture.”

The European forest-based twin will be tested first in Finland, Germany and Romania.

The project is part of an ambitious effort to create a digital twin of the entire planet, an objective set forth in the data strategy of the European Union and the European Commission’s Green Deal. The effort will begin by creating digital twins to model six ecosystems: forests, oceans, food systems, the climate, the water cycle and the Antarctic.

The digital forest twin will be created by a consortium that includes the University of Helsinki, the Romanian Forest Research and Management Institute, and companies from Finland, Germany and Poland. The partners will utilise current and future resources such as climate and weather databases, modelling services and remote-sensing satellites.

The project is closely linked to two development projects underway at VTT: Forest Flux and Forestry Thematic Exploitation Platform.

“Finland has wide-ranging expertise in forest modelling, starting from basic research to remote sensing applications and the platform economy,” said Mõttus “We also have a networked business and research sector and a proven capacity to carry out projects such as this. Developing the digital twin for ESA solidifies the remote-sensing skills hub in Finland.”

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