Measuring forests: saving forests


This relevant and engaging activity gives a concrete example of how conservation activity can be guided by science. It also covers some of the practical and mathematical skills common to all biology A-level courses, particularly logarithms.

The activity was designed with topic A of the SNAB course in mind. However it could be used in other Biology A-levels.

Students work with data from a conservation scientist, Dr Ed Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh, and identify how new technologies can be used to preserve the world’s forests. This offers a useful opportunity to develop mathematical skills for biology in a clear and engaging context.

Students watch a video about REDD+: the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. The programme aims to tackle deforestation while contributing to the sustainable development of developing nations. Students then carry out a number of mathematical activities related to the carbon storage of forest trees. Finally, the students use an Excel spreadsheet containing Dr Mitchard’s own data, and conclude whether satellite data can be used to measure plant biomass over large areas – crucial for successfully implementing REDD.

The activity can be given a STEM careers angle, by showing a 5 minute video of Dr Mitchard talking about his studies and his work.

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