This case study investigates how the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, remote-sensing and carbon emissions monitoring technologies measure forest processes and respond to environmental change objectives. Forests are now sites of intensive data production. Not only do they generate data from advancing practices of earth observation but also they are locations where sensors, LIDAR, and other data-generating technologies such as Internet of Trees networks monitor environmental conditions. Real-time data from these installations is meant to allow for an immediate understanding of forest dynamics, which in turn are meant to provide an indication of related events in nearby environments. Data becomes a distinct object and tool of governance, where environmental processes and entities are increasingly datafied in order to address environmental change.

Sensors in experimental forests

Decisions about what to measure and monitor, the formation of evidence in support of environmental change objectives, and the extent to which this data is able to effect change are part of a complex set of social–political struggles about how to make forests matter. The production of data in forests is neither self-evident nor is it all-encompassing, since some forests might also be sites of more focused study and attention, while others become less central in science and policy discussions—often depending upon the carbon storage potential of forests 1

By analyzing the social and political consequences of the increasing datafication of forests 2 , it might be possible to attend to how emissions inventories, resource metrics, and related policy instruments align or conflict with community processes for valuing and evaluating forests.


  1. Ehrenstein, V, Muniesa, F (2013) The conditional sink: Counterfactual display in the valuation of a carbon offsetting reforestation project. Valuation Studies 1(2): 161–188; Gabrys, J (2009) Sink: The dirt of systems. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27(4): 666–681.
  2. Turnhout, E, Waterton, C, Neves, Ket al. (2013) Rethinking biodiversity: From goods and services to “living with”. Conservation Letters 6(3): 154–161.