Given the size and scope of our company, our climate-related activities are wide-ranging. We work to minimize the environmental footprint and, through our investing, use our influence to drive climate action. As a large manager of farmland and timberland, we also deal with the devastating effects of climate change – including intense wildfires – which are becoming more frequent.
Through Hancock Natural Resource Group (HNRG), a division of Manulife Investment Management, we are the world’s largest global timberland investment manager for institutional investors. On behalf of our clients, we manage 5.7 million acres of forest to meet the highest sustainability standards as set out by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council, and standards endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification.
“For several years, we’ve been working with a company, DroneSeed, to develop a way of replanting forests with drones after a wildfire,” says Jacob Thiemens, Forest Area Manager for HNRG. “In 2018, we conducted our first live trials in Oregon and the results were promising.”
After a wildfire destroyed a portion of the property in Oregon, DroneSeed’s drones were used to survey the burned area designated for planting and identify suitable sites. Then drones were sent out carrying hoppers full of seeds in a product that look like hockey pucks that provides an ideal growing condition for the seed and deters wildlife from eating it. With the mapping data, the drones were able to fly precisely to the suitable location and replant the target area in a matter of minutes.
While planned reforestation is accomplished with seedlings from a nursery, wildfires are unexpected and seedlings aren’t always available. Among their many benefits, drones offer a jump start on competing vegetation by planting seeds immediately instead of waiting at least a year for nurseries to grow seedlings. Drone technology also allows for careful planning of reforestation by optimizing the location of each tree, which could prevent future wildfires of the same intensity.
“With climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires, we need to manage the issue from many different angles. We think drone technology offers promise as a new standard forestry tool for post-wildfire reforestation,” adds Jacob.