Customer Stories


August 1, 2023

Case Study: Harnessing the Power of Satellites to Curb Moldovan Deforestation

Amid an escalating energy crisis causing deforestation in Moldova, the nation turned to technology for a solution. With support from the European Union, Moldova partnered with LiveEO to leverage satellite imagery in detecting and preventing illegal logging. Through LiveEO's web application, the government receives monthly monitoring reports, providing a data-driven response to the environmental impact of the energy crisis.

How forests suffered from the energy crisis

Moldova’s energy system faced significant challenges in 2021. Energy prices increased substantially that year - essentially doubled - and then more than quadrupled in 2022. In addition, gas prices lacked stability, severely impacting the manageability of the Moldovan government’s energy finances. The government’s gas provider, Gazprom, began imposing deadlines for payments and advances, placing strain on their budgets and forecasts. The fluctuating prices were not an ideal situation - because Moldova relies entirely on foreign gas and coal (25% of its energy is domestic, which comes from a variety of sources like renewable energy), the crisis’ detrimental effects resulted in the government declaring a state of emergency.

Natural gas prices per Moldovan household (2022)

Moldova Natural Gas Prices Per Household (2022)

Moldova Natural Gas Prices Per Household (2022)

Moldova Natural Gas Prices Per Household (2022)

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Financial as well as environmental troubles proceeded. A large percentage of Moldova’s population lives under the poverty threshold and could not afford the rising gas prices, which were impacted by greater tariffs. Most of Moldova’s lower-income population depends purely on gas, especially for heating in the winter months.

Firewood is still a source of heating in this season, due to its wide and cheap availability. With volatile gas prices now rising, this heating method gained greater popularity. Illegal logging therefore increased, directly impacting deforestation, and threatening Moldova’s alignment with the European Union’s practices. Also at risk was the feasibility of its sustainable development goals (SDGs), along with a previously enacted reform program designed specifically to adhere to EU sustainability standards.

Moldova’s LiveEO-powered response

In the face of hardship, actions were taken to help Moldova cope with the energy crisis and stop the spread of deforestation. The EU supported Moldova’s aim to link its grid with the Continental European Networks’ (CEN). Firewood, many vulnerable households’ main source of heating, was offered at a significant price discount, subsidized in part by controlled deforestation. In addition, the identification of existing deforestation was introduced as part of its plan to stop the bleeding stemming from the energy crisis. By leveraging the power of satellite imagery, LiveEO’s deforestation detection solution was put in place to identify forest degradation and contribute to Moldova’s analysis.

By acquiring and coordinating the analysis of monthly satellite imagery, LiveEO is helping the Moldovan government detect changes in its regions, in an automated and secure way. LiveEO’s solution was originally developed in response to the new EU Deforestation Regulation, which aims to ensure certain commodities imported to the EU did not contribute to the loss of forests.

With LiveEO’s tailored analysis, Moldova is able to not just recognize patterns and implement countermeasures to forest degradation, but to reforest, as well as improve and update its existing data.

A pilot showcasing the power of LiveEO’s analysis was able to locate 216 instances of deforestation in between September and December 2022, before the collaboration with Moldova officially began. See below an example of one of these instances found over these months.

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December 31st

Images from November to December 2022

Images from November to December 2022

Images from November to December 2022

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From December 2022, LiveEO provides Moldova with monthly deforestation monitoring through its integrated web app. This helps the country keep track of deforestation and notice which regions are affected; by tracking changes in tree cover over time, LiveEO is able to quantify the extent of damage and help the Moldovan government make further decisions.

Using 3m resolution optical satellite data, LiveEO supplies regular updates on the status of their forestry. By visiting the interactive deforestation map on LiveEO’s website, interested citizens can get an informed picture on logging activities in their entire country over time.

Screenshot of web app

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New users from Moldova were onboarded onto the app, while the project website was translated into Romanian for accessibility. The application itself also underwent updates as Moldova receives monthly updates on the status of its forests.

Furthermore, the monthly updates provide actionable insights like cutbacks and m² affected per month as well as the cutback locations. The graphs below represent data collected for the last months of 2022 in an effort to validate the viability of LiveEO’s research prior to the start date.

Protect Your Assets with Insights from Space

These insights into deforestation activities showcase LiveEO’s ability to monitor tree cover loss precisely. By leveraging satellite imagery and automation, LiveEO produces smart results for its clients. This solution is particularly useful for those needing to comply with the European Union's Deforestation Regulation, requiring companies to prove their products are not contributing to deforestation when imported into the EU. In Moldova’s case, they are now able to pinpoint the extent of deforestation suffered and measure the damage exacerbated by the ongoing energy crisis. LiveEO’s work proved imperative to the quantifying of crucial data needed to begin addressing this complex issue.

Check LiveEO's solution for deforestation monitoring here.