Future Forest: How Emerging Technologies Can Cultivate the Forests of Tomorrow
Visual — Dada Projects
Work to reverse deforestation and reforest the planet has to begin immediately if we are to see the benefits in our lifetime. Our new report explores how emerging technologies can help us to support the forests of tomorrow.
The resilience of our forests is at risk. Human impacts have already led to the loss of one-third of the world’s forests, with an area the size of a football pitch being destroyed every second.
At COP26 in 2021, world leaders from 144 countries signed a pledge to collectively protect, preserve and revive global forests by 2030. Yet the declaration does not outline how each country will contribute to this goal or what happens if we don’t meet the deadline.
The plan is still unclear. So, where do we begin?
In our new report Future Forest, we get to know how forests work. We examine what is happening to our forests today and ask, how can technology support the forests of tomorrow?
‘In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, forest protection is recognised as an essential pillar in the global climate strategy. Through this project, we look at how technology could monitor and support the growth and well-being of forests, as well as make us more accountable for our actions towards nature.’
Elsa Dagný Ásgeirsdóttir
Lead Creative Producer, SPACE10
We spoke with multiple experts to support our research, including Loa Daalgard Worm, director of strategy and innovation at FSC Denmark, World Forest ID co-founder Phil Guillery, and Ulf Johansson, head of global wood supply and forestry at Inter IKEA.
What we learned is that we will need both local interventions and global-scale change to future-proof our forests. Whether you’re an individual, company or policymaker, we all have an active and collaborative role to play in protecting and regenerating the future of forests.
Forests today: falling fast
As deforestation and demand for wood supply increase, there’s a real possibility that we risk losing up to 90 percent of the world’s original forests by 2030. On top of this, 15-30 percent of all timber traded globally is harvested illegally. The Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, and extreme fires are increasing forest loss.
Yet because of their ability to capture and store carbon, trees are some of our most vital defences amid the climate emergency. They are the lungs of our planet, providing a carbon sink that absorbs a net 7.6bn metric tonnes of CO2 per year. And they’re instrumental in cooling our environments, including our cities.
Trees are also central to biodiversity, with up to 80 percent of the world’s animal, plant and insect species relying on trees as their habitat.
‘Forests are not just trees; they are homes. We need to revitalise people’s connection with the value of forests.’
Loa Dalgaard Worm
Director of Strategy and Innovation, FSC Denmark
We have seven years until 2030
How can we utilise various technologies to protect and restore forests?
In our Future Forest report, we identify four areas of focus — ending deforestation, reforestation, traceability, Indigenous lands — and a number of emerging technologies that demonstrate potential for supporting the long-term health of forests, people and the planet. Through case studies, we outline how satellite mapping and LiDAR, isotope reference testing and environmental DNA, drone technologies, and Web3 can help us to protect and restore our forests at the scale and speed required by anthropogenic climate change.
‘Digitisation doesn’t only make our job easier, by offering new possibilities, it raises our ambitions. Traceability will no longer be limited to the forestry worker or furniture manufacturer — it’s our customers who would like to know more.’
Head of Global Wood Supply and Forestry, Inter IKEA
Insights from the report:
- We need to listen and learn about the ways Indigenous peoples interact with forests to understand where, how and if digital technology can play a role. And provide room for active and ongoing community engagement around the design, implementation and usability of the technologies.
- Statistics and visual data from the forestry industry can create compelling and interactive storytelling that feels relatable. While the familiar UX and design of apps and web platforms to make caring for our forests more engaging for more people.
- Technologies focused on supply chain traceability can become tools for building trust with people, while helping them to track global reforestation efforts.
- Web3 technologies can create investment opportunities that directly support forests, the people that care for them, and overall planetary health.
Loa Daalgard Worm has worked with FSC Denmark in sustainable transformation for more than 18 years. Always focused on innovation and how to move things forward and generate the greatest possible impact, Worm worked for three years as FSC’s senior engagement officer for the digital transformation of FSC before taking over as director of strategy and innovation. She is also the host of the inspiring podcast, Forest for the Future — where she investigates how innovation at FSC can help save our forests.
Phil Guillery is co-founder and executive director of World Forest ID. For more than 30 years, he has worked to combat illegal logging and support efforts to recognise responsible forest management practised by communities and others. Guillery is recognised as a global leader in bringing technology and transparency to the forest products sector.
Ulf Johansson leads the IKEA global Wood Supply & Forestry specialist team that now comprises close to 50 individuals worldwide responsible for ensuring compliance, leading business priorities to improve global forest management, and setting the long-term strategic wood-sourcing direction and communication. Johansson has long experience in different forestry companies and has led IKEA operations in both Asia and Europe. Growing up in the forests of Småland, he is a keen forest manager himself.
Dada Projects believes in an alternative future for 3D design. As a women-led studio in a male-dominated industry, they challenge convention while introducing a fresh perspective on visual storytelling. Evolving from founder Christina Worner’s freelance practice, Dada Projects takes a concept-led approach to projects, utilising emerging technologies to produce unique animations that push the industry to new heights.
Kamil Král is a senior researcher at VUKOZ research institute in the Department of Forest Ecology, Czech Republic. Král is also a co-founder of 3D Forest — an open-source software application for scanning forest environments. Using LiDAR data segmentation, visualisation, and measurement, the tool documents and exports various tree parameters.
Principal is a Canadian strategy and design firm that helps organisations define and express their identity. It brings together branding and digital professionals in a global and integrated design approach that reinforces the cultural, reputational and financial value of organisations while leaving a positive, lasting mark on the world.
Justified Studio is a creative studio led by design, technology and strategy, dedicated to positive and purposeful brands.
Special thanks to Kamil Král, Loa Daalgard Worm and Phil Guillery for consulting on all things forests, to Dada Projects and Justified Studio for concept and visuals, and to Principal for the design of the report.