European geoportal maps and monitors marginal lands for carbon sequestration capacity

Cesefor concludes its participation in a project that has identified these territories and their capacity and opportunity for the voluntary carbon market as an element of sustainability in afforestation projects.

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Photo: Earth Engine Apps
Photo: Earth Engine Apps

During the last three years Cesefor has participated in the MAIL project, an initiative funded under the Horizon 2020 program, whose acronym stands for Identifying Marginal Lands in Europe and strengthening their contribution potentialities in a CO2 sequestration strategy.

Under this initiative, carried out by a consortium comprising six entities, Cesefor has led the working group on pilot case studies, which aimed to implement methodologies, techniques and algorithms developed within the project, and test them in pilot areas under real conditions.

The research and technological development work has resulted in two major results related to the role of Cesefor in the MAIL project. On the one hand, the geoportal with all the territories identified as “marginal lands” (according to the concept and parameters established by the project), classified according to their absorption potential by remote sensing. With this tool, these areas are collected and the geoportal allows proposing actions to increase that potential. This tool, developed on Google Earth Engine platform to facilitate greater implementation and dissemination, is available at Geoportal | Marginal Lands. The use of this Google service has also made possible to use its data catalog and computing power to perform spatial analysis.

On the other hand, with the purpose of transferring the knowledge achieved, its main findings will be disseminated through an online training that will start on February 15. This training is the MOOC ‘Management of Marginal Lands and Carbon Sequestration estimation through Remote Sensing and GIS’, which counts in its teaching staff with Fernando Bezares, environmental engineer in Cesefor specialized in geographic information systems applied to the forestry sector.

Cesefor has carried out the development or coordination of certain technical contents, such as the literature review on the concept of marginal; obtaining information on existing methodologies to quantify carbon storage, and the validation and adjustment of these models to the needs of the MAIL project; identification and development of indicators to support the estimation of current carbon storage and carbon stored in a dynamic equilibrium state (saturation state) for marginal lands; inventory and quantification of potential forest products in these areas and calculation of the carbon stored in the derived products; and the study of the capacity and opportunity of the voluntary carbon market as a factor of sustainability in afforestation projects.

Other Cesefor professionals have also been involved in the MAIL project, with different profiles and skills, who have contributed to the research and dissemination of the results of this project, such as Laura Martín, Concha Redondo, Marta Tejero, Rodrigo Gómez y Alfonso.

Exchange of research and technical staff

Together with Cesefor, the University of Thessaloniki (which has coordinated MAIL); the Polytechnic University of Valencia; the Greek consultancy HOMEOTECH; the German firm IABG MBH, expert in geospatial and earth observation services; and the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (CBK PAN) have been part of the consortium of this project.

This type of project (a Horizon 2020 within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie/ RISE action line) allows one of the great attractions of these international and intersectoral cooperation initiatives: the exchange of staff among the partner institutions of the project. At the end of the 36-month duration of the project, a total of 174 secondments of personnel from the different partners have been carried out. In the case of Cesefor, several members of its staff have had the opportunity to work in Germany and Greece for several months.

In this regard, the head of the MAIL project at Cesefor, Francisco Gallego, highlights the “efficiency in the development of the project” not only in terms of the technical results already mentioned, but also in the correct execution of all the exchanges of research personnel in the middle of a global pandemic. Gallego stresses the importance of this type of experience in which “the exchange of personnel also allows us to strengthen ties and collaboration with the institutions with which we have worked. As a result, Cesefor will work again with some of these entities in other Horizon Europe calls and will also be part of the panel of experts of another initiative led by another partner”.

Finally, Francisco Gallego highlights among other results some of the publications that have been developed in Cesefor on the work carried out in the MAIL project, such as the one that will soon come out, referring to the marginal lands existing in Castilla y León and its potential for carbon sequestration.