Rainforest canopy-penetrating technology gets boost for forest carbon monitoring
December 4, 2008
A tool for monitoring tropical deforestation has gotten a boost from the one of the world’s largest supporters of Amazon conservation.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology with a $1.6-million grant to expand and improve its tropical forest monitoring tool known as the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System Lite (CLASLite).
The Stanford University-based group says CLASLite "will rapidly advance deforestation and degradation mapping in Latin America, and will help rain forest nations better monitor their changing carbon budgets." The technology will prove useful as the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) mechanism — currently under negotiation at international climate talks — comes online.
"About 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and degradation of tropical forests," said Greg Asner, project leader and a researcher at Stanford. "And much of it occurs in developing nations, where monitoring capabilities are often unavailable to governments and NGOs. This grant allows us to improve and expand CLASLite, and to train many people from tropical forest nations so that they can determine where and when forest losses are occurring. Perhaps most importantly, rain forest nations will be able to better determine how much CO2 comes from deforestation and degradation—information that has been very scarce in the past. We hope that CLASLite will become a central tool for rain forest monitoring in support of global carbon crediting for REDD—the United Nations initiative on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation."
his output from CLASLite shows deforestation (bare soil) in pink and forest disturbance from logging in blue in the Brazilian Amazon. The map depicts changes through time with each successive overlay. Image provided by the Asner lab.
CLASLite is capable of penetrating the upper levels of the rainforest canopy and detecting small differences in vegetation patterns at a scale of about 100 feet (30 meters), producing forest maps from old and new data from Landsat satellites, as well as several other NASA sensors in Earth orbit. The technology can sense changes due to selective logging and small surface fires that burn below the forest canopy. New iterations of the technology are increasingly user friendly, designed for a desktop environment.
“We have learned through the training of new users of CLASLite that forest monitoring can become an everyday activity that no longer requires huge investments in computers or expertise,” said David Knapp, a senior scientific programmer in Asner’s group. “This is our goal.”
This grant will support the efforts to provide training and technology transfer in most tropical forest nations in the Andes-Amazon region — the Moore Foundation’s focal area in South America — stretching from Venezuela and Guyana across to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The Moore Foundation is the largest private donor to Amazon conservation and research.
“Given the increased interest and activity for simple forest monitoring methods and rising emphasis on the monitoring needs around REDD, CLASLite, is clearly a strategic tool,” added Luis Solorzano, the Andes Amazon Lead and Director for South American Programs at the Moore Foundation. “Dr. Asner and Carnegie are uniquely positioned to deliver this state-of-the-art technology to the right end-use organizations both in government and civil society working to conserve and manage Andes-Amazon forests. We fully support his vision for a full and transparent deployment of CLASLite across the Andes Amazon region with an emphasis on securing its accessibility by all stakeholders.”
Policymakers, conservationists and scientists have high hopes that REDD, a mechanism for compensating countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, will spur a massive flow of funds to tropical countries, helping preserve rainforests and delivering economic benefits to impoverished rural communities.
Monday, Brazil created the world’s largest rainforest protected area in the northern Amazon. Covering more than 15 million hectares (57,915 square miles) — or an area larger than England — the network of seven new protected reserves has been met with praise by environmental groups. Instrumental in the development of the conservation project has been an organization that most people wouldn’t associate with rainforest conservation but certainly should: the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Amazon rainforest at a tipping point But globalization could help save it June 4, 2007
The Amazon basin is home to the world’s largest rainforest, an ecosystem that supports perhaps 30 percent of the world’s terrestrial species, stores vast amounts of carbon, and exerts considerable influence on global weather patterns and climate. Few would dispute that it is one of the planet’s most important landscapes. Despite its scale — the basin covers 40 percent of South America — the Amazon is also one of the fastest changing ecosystems, largely as a result of human activities, including deforestation, forest fires, and, increasingly, climate change. Few people understand these impacts better than Dr. Daniel Nepstad, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Amazon rainforest. Now head of the Woods Hole Research Center’s Amazon program in Belém, Brazil, Nepstad has spent more than 23 years in the Amazon, studying subjects ranging from forest fires and forest management policy to sustainable development.
A new study links selective logging to clear-cutting in the Amazon rainforest. The research is significant because it identifies “an important indicator of rain forest vulnerability to clear-cutting in Brazil.” A team of scientists, led by Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, found that 16% of selectively logged rainforests were completely cleared within one year and 32% were totally deforested within four years. The researchers also found high correlation between the presence of roads and deforestation, with virtually no selective logging occurring at distances greater than 15 miles from roads.
“Stealth logging” doubles amount of rain forest disturbance in the Amazon
November 1, 2005
Research released earlier this month in Science found that Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is being degraded twice as fast as deforestation figures suggest. Selective logging, where only one or two valuable tree species are harvested from an area, is driving the forest degradation. The findings have important implications for “sustainable harvesting” schemes that have been promoted as ecologically-sound alternatives to traditional harvesting techniques.
Invasive plant species are altering the ecology of Hawaiian rain forests, reports a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Using a new type of remote sensing technology on aircraft to create a three-dimensional structure of more than 220,000 hectares of rain forest on the island of Hawaii, researchers led by Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institutionâ€™s Department of Global Ecology found that invasives are changing the basic ecological structure of Hawaiian forests.