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Drax, Earthworm Foundation develop tool to evaluate forest health

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Drax Group has teamed up with non-profit organisation, the Earthworm Foundation, on an evidence-based tool to measure and evaluate the health of a forest.

The new tool, known as Healthy Forest Landscapes (HFL) will ensure that working forests continue to benefit the communities that rely on them, as well as the environment, amid increasing demand for sustainable wood products across a range of industries.

By using HFL, the forestry industry will be able to more accurately identify opportunities for positive interventions which support healthy forests and drive improvements across the sector.

The HFL approach assesses four key areas – forest cover, carbon stock, biodiversity, and community wellbeing, all key focus areas for Drax. The tool will give businesses like Drax the information needed to ensure its operations positively impact the forests where it sources its biomass.

Richard Peberdy, head of sustainable forests at Drax, said: “As a major user of sustainable biomass, Drax is committed to continuously raising standards across the industry to ensure the biomass we use makes a positive contribution to our climate, the environment, and the communities in which we operate.

“The HFL tool provides a consistent framework for evaluating different types of forests in different regions and countries. It gives us a clearer picture of forest health and allows us to obtain the evidence that the forests we source from are replanted, continue to store carbon, and remain biodiverse and healthy while sustaining jobs and other opportunities.”

HFL measures changes in the forest landscape using empirical evidence such as big data from government statistics, and input from remote sensing technologies, such as earth observation from satellites. HFL also uses an Earthworm-developed socio-economic evaluation methodology to assess community wellbeing.

Preliminary findings from the first pilot study at Drax’s Amite pellet plant in Mississippi, US, show stable forest cover and biodiversity levels through the period 2010 to 2018, with a slight overall increase in total forested area, a marginal increase in the proportion under planted pine and a slight decrease in the proportion under broadleaf forest.