Earth observations for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in developing countries

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In response to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process investigating the technical issues surrounding the ability to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation in developing countries, this paper reviews technical capabilities for monitoring deforestation and estimating emissions. Implementation of policies to reduce emissions from deforestation require effective deforestation monitoring systems that are reproducible, provide consistent results, meet standards for mapping accuracy, and can be implemented at the national level. Remotely sensed data supported by ground observations are key to effective monitoring. Capacity in developing countries for deforestation monitoring is well-advanced in a few countries and is a feasible goal in most others. Data sources exist to determine base periods in the 1990s as historical reference points. Forest degradation (e.g. from high impact logging and fragmentation) also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions but it is more technically challenging to measure than deforestation. Data on carbon stocks, which are needed to estimate emissions, cannot currently be observed directly over large areas with remote sensing. Guidelines for carbon accounting from deforestation exist and are available in approved Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and can be applied at national scales in the absence of forest inventory or other data. Key constraints for implementing programs to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are international commitment of resources to increase capacity, coordination of observations to ensure pan-tropical coverage, access to free or low-cost data, and standard and consensual protocols for data interpretation and analysis.

Keywords: Carbon emissions; Greenhouse gases; Climate change; Deforestation; Tropical forests

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