Faculty of Science, Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management

Research field


Contact info

Email: mabr@ign.ku.dk

Research leader

Martin Stefan Brandt

Assistant Professor, born 1980

Project title

Trees outside forests in African drylands

What is your project about?

A large proportion of trees and shrubs are located outside of forests in peri-urban and rural dryland areas, playing a crucial role for providing ecosystem services. However, no large scale assessment on non-forest trees exists. Here, this project applies deep learning on satellite imagery, to map woody plants and their characteristics in African drylands. Furthermore, the environmental and social factors that determine the distribution, characteristics and functions of each tree and shrub are analyzed.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I did my MSc and PhD thesis in Africa (Mozambique, Senegal and Mali) including almost 1 year of field work. I got fascinated by the topic, in particular trees, and I always had the desire to map them as precise as possible. Remote sensing is a great tool for large scale assessments, and now very detailed satellite images give me the opportunity to assess trees with an unprecedented accuracy.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

There is a lot of data to be organized and processed. I will use newest techniques from the field of artifical intelligence, which makes close collaborations with computer scientists crucial. Validation with field data is another important point. Also the interpretation from a socio-economic view is part of the project, making the work truely interdisciplinary.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

Trees in drylands are underrepresented in the public and in development strategies. This project will generate high-impact publications and data which will impact on the scientific and public view of drylands and also deliver a baseline on woody vegetation that can be implemented in policies and ecosystem models. The difference to previous assessments is that we will deliver wall-to-wall maps of dryland trees that leave little room for uncertainties and help resolve controversies over the extent of canopy cover in drylands.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

This grant will give me the opportunity to select the researchers I need to accomplish my mission. I will be able to establish my own research group conducting groundbreaking research in the application of satellite imageries using cutting-edge technologies in the context of globally relevant ecological patterns.

Background and personal life

I share my office, my home and my research with my wife Xiaowei. Together we established cutting edge research both in Denmark and in China. Now our son Jun Yann takes most of our common time.

City of your current residence


High school

Adam Kraft Gymnasium