Forest Project Gets $1m Funding to Conserve Mexican Biodiversity Hotspot


landscape image of forest canopy

An international project lead by sustainability software and data firm Ecometrica and funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Space Programme (IPSP) has helped local organisations in Mexico secure funding of over $1 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support conservation of the El Ocote Biosphere Reserve, an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot in the state of Chiapas.

The IPSP project is providing new satellite data and mapping technology to local organisations to assist in the monitoring of land use change, fires and forest health. Satellite derived information will be analysed and delivered to local organisations via a network of regional Earth Observation (EO) labs, built on Ecometrica’s cloud-based Mapping technology.

Project director Elsa Esquivel, of Mexican NGO Ambio, said: “Ecometrica’s satellite data and mapping technology is helping to us to identify areas where community activities to promote forest-friendly agriculture are succeeding, or running into problems. Without this our team on the ground cannot continually cover the more than 100,000 hectares of the reserve and the surrounding areas of influence. It will also help us to report on the effectiveness of our actions to the GEF, as part of an ongoing cycle of monitoring, evaluation and learning. We also hope that the satellite data and mapping system will be expanded to other parts of Chiapas to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

Ambio is leading the El Ocote project and has been working with indigenous communities in and around the Biosphere Reserve for more than seven years. The GEF funding will ensure that Ambio has enough staff to liaise with local farmers over activities that impact on the forest – such as crop burning – and to tackle illegal activities, including logging.

Dr Richard Tipper, executive chairman of Ecometrica, said: “We are delighted that GEF has chosen to back this project and that IPSP’s input was a catalyst for that decision. The satellite derived information should help to ensure the intervention is effective and efficient, because it allows conservationists on the ground to know what is happening and to deploy their resources accordingly in the challenging terrain.”

Dr Tipper said the IPSP is a great example of a programme that helps businesses with advanced technologies build relationships in countries that would not normally benefit. Earth observation technologies have great potential to support sustainable forestry, agriculture and natural resource management around the world.

“Through the IPSP we are showing that UK companies have solutions that are relevant to the very real challenges faced by developing and emerging economies,” he said.

Dr Tipper said El Ocote is hopefully the first of several local conservation and development activities in Mexico and Brazil to be assisted by the EO Lab technology.

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Date Published: November 2, 2015



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