Investment Grade Data to Spur Alberta’s Bioeconomy
Governments and businesses around the world are investing in low-carbon solutions to reduce emissions and create economic opportunities as part of climate change action plans. These solutions include the development and production of biomass-based products such as bioenergy, biochemicals, and biomaterials. The end goals of incorporating these products include waste reduction, reduced climate impacts, and long-term cost savings. Interest in the bioindustry has generated a growing need to understand the potential supply of bioresources in the growing bioeconomy.
Silvacom, in conjunction with Alberta Innovates, has developed Alberta’s Bio-Resource Information Management System (BRIMS). BRIMS is designed to collate data and information on the supply of bioresources and other ecosystem services in Alberta in a centralized publicly available system. BRIMS will help spur Alberta’s bioeconomy by providing a foundational element in understanding the supply of bioresources in Alberta through mapping.
BRIMS brings together a variety of inventories to generate biomass supply estimates including landcover, forest inventory, agriculture production statistics, etc. A key challenge moving forward is keeping the data up-to-date to provide the best possible bioresource supply information. Refresh cycles on many inventories are multi-year. Furthermore, the scale and detail can vary quite significantly between various forms of inventory (e.g. forest inventories for commercial use, tenured forest lands vs private land).
To help mitigate the chance of using outdated data, Alberta Innovates leveraged Silvacom’s Comprehensive Automated Land Inventory (CALI) to provide a rapid, broad-scale assessment of bioresources in Alberta.
The Comprehensive Automated Land Inventory (CALI)
Figure 1. CALI tree point resolution and forest characterization
CALI is a semi-automated vegetation inventory system that uses various technologies including digital imagery, softcopy technology, advanced imagery processing algorithms, Semi-Global Matching (SGM) data, and LiDAR to complete a highly detailed individual tree inventory. Silvacom developed CALI in partnership with seven key forestry companies in Alberta and has been expanding applications of the technology to fill other land use and natural resource inventory needs in Western Canada.
For BRIMS, there is an opportunity to use CALI to:
- Enhance delineation of land cover and land use to refine biomass estimates;
- Serve as a rapid assessment tool to update aging inventories; and
- Improve on the resolution of existing inventories.
To prove the opportunity, a large-scale trial was completed in the Duvernay area of Alberta, which encompasses forested land as well as a small area of agricultural land. The project area is 671,190 hectares in size which is equivalent to approximately 70 Alberta townships.
The CALI inventory yielded 38% more forest biomass for the region when compared to publicly available provincial forest inventory from the 1980s (Alberta Phase 3 Inventory). The results highlight the importance of having up-to-date forest inventories as biomass distribution in a region can be altered significantly over time from natural and anthropogenic disturbances (Figure 2). Not only does CALI provide an updated landbase, with high-resolution imagery it also enhances the inventory of forest features that it captures over traditional forest inventories.
Figure 2. Duvernay area Phase 3 comparisons with CALI
Figure 3. Natural and anthropogenic disturbances in the Duvernay area
Proving CALI’s Capacity
In the forested area, CALI can contribute to enhancing the resolution and speed of biomass estimates within the BRIMS framework.
Outside the commercial forest area, where BRIMS biomass estimates are drawn from broad landcover types and regional averages, CALI provides enhanced resolution on specific tree types and sizes that can significantly affect biomass estimates. Furthermore, it can delineate smaller forested features (e.g. shelterbelts) with greater detail than broad landcover inventories (Figure 4). Within this pilot, CALI was able to delineate between treed areas, cropland, and pasture which provides an enhancement over the base landcover currently used in the BRIMS framework. Overall, the results of this analysis present a significant opportunity to expand this process to other areas of the province.
Figure 4 (A-D). White area analysis comparing AAFC and CALI
Both the provincial government and communities across Alberta are investing in the bioeconomy and are using BRIMS to help identify opportunities for encouraging investment. For organizations considering developing business in the bioindustry, understanding the location and makeup of biomass is a valuable resource. Using CALI along with BRIMS can help deliver high-resolution, investment-grade biomass data estimates by region, offering another opportunity to help push the Alberta bioeconomy forward.
For more information on using BRIMS or CALI, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To see how BRIMS is being applied with communities in Alberta see our blog Moving Forward with Bio-Industrial Innovation and Investment in Alberta Communities.