New Tree Tech: Real-Time, Long-Term Reforestation Monitoring

Featured Faculty: Cynthia Gerlein-Safdi

CEE Professor Cynthia Gerlein-Safdi was recently featured in a Mongabay article discussing the challenges faced by tree restoration projects. The article is part of a four-part series that examines the latest technological solutions for making these projects more efficient and scalable. These solutions are critical for achieving international targets to restore degraded ecosystems, sequester carbon, and promote biodiversity. 

Gerlein-Safdi highlighted the "sheer size of reforestation plots" as a critical challenge facing these projects. She notes, "That's a lot of time-consuming effort to cover these large areas" — a challenge that's compounded if the reforested site is particularly difficult to access." A recommendation she has to help overcome this issue is to use remote sensing.

Another issue she cites in the first part of the article series is the importance of monitoring the growing trees after planting. This aspect is often overlooked in large-scale tree restoration efforts. She explains that "a lot of the time,e that's what's missing because it's not just planting trees, but it's really helping them get established."

New seedlings are left vulnerable to disease, fire, and illegal harvesting without ongoing monitoring and long-term support. Scientists also lose valuable feedback opportunities without monitoring, failing to collect continuous data that can improve future projects.