Student information

MSc thesis subject: Research challenges for forest monitoring

Capacities for forest monitoring are increasing, however monitoring tropical forests in order to fulfil the monitoring requirements of international policies such as REDD+ remains difficult.

A number of advances have been made recently - in particular for satellite-based monitoring – with new satellites being launched recently, and new possibilities for big data processing (on cloud computing services for example).

There are a number of research challenges which remain however, and should be solved in order to undertake comprehensive monitoring for REDD+ in tropical dry and tropical humid forests:

  • Sustainable logging
  • Identification of burned areas
  • Carbon (biomass) change measurements
  • Changes in forest structure and other measures of forest health
  • Estimating unbiased large area forest changes using different sampling approaches
  • Use or radar satellites to measure forest area change
  • Use of radar satellites to measure forest biomass change

This topic focusses on assessing the state-of-the art in satellite-based forest monitoring related to one of the above research challenges.


A systematic review of recent scientific literature (for example using google scholar, and/or similar publication databases) using key search terms can be used to gather information on one of the research challenges. The review would summarize research methods, both advanced (operational) approaches, as well as novel approaches which are in development. The use of satellite data would be described, as well as the need for supporting (ground) data.

Results will be mapped showing the geographical locations of the research – including which countries, forest types, and ecological zones are covered by the research, and which satellite data streams or methodological approaches are used where. The research will also highlight the scale at which the analysis has been done (local, regional, global).

The findings should summarize promising research avenues, while identifying remaining gaps and challenges



  • GIS software knowledge (no specific courses are required)

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring, Integrated Land Monitoring