South Korea goes out on a limb to manage forests with AI, satellites

South Korea’s Forest Service announced on Wednesday it plans to establish a real-time forest resource management system and an AI-based forest fire monitoring platform.

The resource management system will rely on agricultural and forestry satellites. The country plans to establish a “National Forest Satellite Information Utilization Center” in July to utilize satellite data.

The ministry promised that when combined, the satellite data and AI technology will be able to predict when trees and plants flower, and quickly assess damage caused by natural disasters.

A digital forest map – essentially a digital twin – will combine map information and forest satellite information, and help the forest service make decisions on management of trees, which cover over 60 percent of the area of the country.

The nation embarked on comprehensive reforestation plans in the 1970s to bulk up the wooded areas.

In the 1950s only 35 percent of South Korea was forested. But by the 1970s it was experiencing rapid industrialization – which was resulting in soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and other environmental problems.

Of course, back then, AI wasn’t around to save the forests, so South Korea relied on economic incentives and interagency cooperation to improve its arboreal environment.

Keeping the nation treed in the age of connected systems is an entirely different effort.

The ministry expressed hope the improvements it laid out on Wednesday would help Korea realize “the vision of a hyper-connected smart administration.”

Other improvements include a landslide information system that combines information from multiple ministries to predict the events, and integrates it with a resident evacuation system. A “forest water system digital map” that represents water flows and distribution is also under development. Garden materials will be recorded in a database, and a new portal will make relevant content accessible.

The reservation systems for recreational and education activities in Korea’s forests will also be expanded onto private apps – like Korea’s Google-like web giant Naver.

Fellow Asian nation Singapore has also developed itself an internet of trees – tracking around six million of them on the small island.

Singapore began its high-tech tree analysis over 20 years ago – first by geotagging them, and eventually adding machine learning to the process. ®


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