SilviaTerra: Precision carbon forestry for all landowners

Marena Brinkhurst
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Mar 18, 2021

SilviaTerra: Precision carbon forestry for all landowners

Marena Brinkhurst

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Mar 18, 2021

SilviaTerra is pioneering a market-based, data-driven mechanism for democratizing access to forest carbon markets —powered by precise measurement of every acre of forest every year.

The carbon offset market is expected to grow to as much as $50 billion by 2030 but there isn’t yet enough supply to meet demand. America's hundreds of millions of acres of forests have huge potential as a source of carbon offsets - both for fighting climate change and for generating revenue for families.

“Communicating the amount of forest carbon potential and the impact to real families is something that can not be fully achieved without Mapbox. From processing large-scale data to powering polished visualizations and storytelling, Mapbox tools can scale with our growth.” - Max Nova, Co-Founder and COO, SilviaTerra

SilviaTerra is growing the supply of high-quality carbon credits by making the carbon market accessible to landowners of all sizes. Using precision forest monitoring and measurement, SilviaTerra can remove the expensive set-up and arduous contracts that have previously excluded small-scale, family owned forests from traditional forest carbon projects. SilviaTerra's Natural Capital Exchange (NCAPX) pays landowners to change their forest management to preserve and capture carbon.

Monitoring 600 million acres

Transparency and accountability are critical for the forest carbon market. SilviaTerra measures the quality of carbon credits by evaluating the before and after state of enrolled forests using Basemap, the first high-resolution forest inventory of every forested acre in the continental United States. Basemap currently has data on 600 million acres across 48 states – including the species and size of 92 billion trees.

Basemap uses data from Landsat and Sentinel satellites, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, the National Land Cover Database, rasterized climate characteristics, and more. Applying predictive models based on years of forest biometrics expertise, the data is processed in a pipeline of Fiona, Shapely, NumPy, and rasterio operations then vibrantly visualized on maps built with Mapbox GL JS and Studio.

Seeing the forest and the trees

What SilviaTerra does is all about data and people. Impressive numbers miss the wider story of impact on real families and habitats. To help clients understand their impact, SilviaTerra used the Interactive Storytelling solution from Mapbox to explain NCAPX in an intuitive way - starting with the story of the first pilot program in Pennsylvania in which 21 landowners representing about 67,000 acres were enrolled and contracted to defer harvests corresponding to about 100,000 tons of carbon.

To prepare the data visualizations for each chapter of their story, SilviaTerra used QGIS to aggregate key metrics at the level of individual tax parcels. Then they used Mapbox Studio to generate data visualization layers showing timber values, harvest risk, and forest carbon on the landscape. 

“The impact to millions of acres or to families in rural Alabama is more than text on a page or a static image. You have to experience it. But we can’t all hop on a plane to see oaks and pines sprawling across the rugged landscape of a rural family’s multigenerational home. Mapbox helps turn our facts and words into a compelling story that brings a deeper level of resonance than could otherwise be achieved.” - Max Nova, Co-Founder and COO, SilviaTerra

SilviaTerra already has over 9 million acres submitted for evaluation by landowners in the US South and is opening up to the rest of the U.S. through 2021. Making a real impact on the journey to net zero means bringing together as many people, organizations, and forests as possible. To learn more about how SilviaTerra powers NCAPX and to get involved, visit silviaterra.com.

Watch our March 18th Lunchbox with SilviaTerra to learn more about the NCAPX story.

If you’re building world-changing applications with location data, connect with the Mapbox Community team.

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