Monitoring direct drivers of small-scale tropical forest disturbance in near real-time with Sentinel-1 and -2 data

Bart Slagter*, Johannes Reiche, Diego Marcos, Adugna Mullissa, Etse Lossou, Marielos Peña-Claros, Martin Herold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Advancements in satellite-based forest monitoring increasingly enable the near real-time detection of small-scale tropical forest disturbances. However, there is an urgent need to enhance such monitoring methods with automated direct driver attributions to detected disturbances. This would provide important additional information to make forest disturbance alerts more actionable and useful for uptake by different stakeholders. In this study, we demonstrate spatially explicit and near real-time methods to monitor direct drivers of small-scale tropical forest disturbance across a range of tropical forest conditions in Suriname, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We trained a convolutional neural network with Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data to continuously classify newly detected RAdar for Detecting Deforestation (RADD) alerts as smallholder agriculture, road development, selective logging, mining or other. Different monitoring scenarios were evaluated based on varying sensor combinations, post-disturbance time periods and confidence levels. In general, the use of Sentinel-2 data was found to be most accurate for driver classifications, especially with data composited over a period of 4 to 6 months after the disturbance detection. Sentinel-1 data showed to be valuable for more rapid classifications of specific drivers, especially in areas with persistent cloud cover. Throughout all monitoring scenarios, smallholder agriculture was classified most accurately, while road development, selective logging and mining were more challenging to distinguish. An accuracy assessment throughout the full extent of our study regions revealed a Macro-F1 score of 0.861 and an Overall Accuracy of 0.897 for the best performing model, based on the use of 6-month post-disturbance Sentinel-2 composites. Finally, we addressed three specific monitoring use cases that relate to rapid law enforcement against illegal activities, ecological impact assessments and timely carbon emission reporting, by optimizing the trade-off in classification timeliness and confidence to reach required accuracies. Our findings demonstrate the strong capacities of high spatiotemporal resolution satellite data for monitoring direct drivers of small-scale forest disturbance, considering different user interests. The produced forest disturbance driver maps can be accessed via:

Original languageEnglish
Article number113655
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Deep learning
  • Deforestation
  • Driver attribution
  • Forest degradation
  • Mining
  • Near real-time monitoring
  • Road development
  • Selective logging
  • Small-scale forest disturbance
  • Smallholder agriculture
  • Tropical forest


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