Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD

By Gabriel Thoumi, special to mongabay.com
May 03, 2011

With over 200 million forested hectares in 60 countries transferred to community forest management over the past 20 years, this much needed book edited by Margaret Skutsch funded through the Kyoto: Think Global Act Local program (K:TGAL), provides not only various insights into how local communities and indigenous stakeholders can be engaged in community forest carbon project development and monitoring, it furthermore provides a valuable framework and models from which to discuss and analyze successful implementation of community forest carbon projects.

Community forest carbon projects can sequester significant quantities of carbon, as the research in this book demonstrates. Measuring annually from 38 locations globally with individual project length of up 7 years, with a total of 171 measurement periods, the authors arrive at an average annual increment in above ground biomass (annual growth rate) of 4.9 tons carbon per hectare. This is a lot of carbon, and could mean close to 4 billion metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e) in annual sequestration occurring through community forest activities globally on 200 million hectares.

When this data was revisited and the forest plots reanalyzed by professional foresters on 125 of the survey plots across four different forest types, the results were very supportive of the capacity of the local community members to measure the forest carbon in the community forests they manage. While measuring forest carbon is both enjoyable and variable, it is exacting requiring analysis to the millimeter. Given this, the community forest members may exhibit a significant capacity to learn how to measure, and then measure well the forest carbon estate in their communities because the difference between the professional biomass surveys and the community biomass surveys of the same plots were marginal.

Furthermore, the communities also successfully applied CyberTracker software on their handheld computers (PDAs) in conjunction with Google Earth. Because CyberTracker is open-source and free, combined with free images from Google Earth, local community members were able to also describe spatially their local fauna and flora while mapping their community forest carbon permanent sample plots. This low-cost high-skill transfer software interface provides another avenue for community members to gain control and develop equity over each communities’ forest estate.

While community forest management (CFM) represents a significant opportunity for mitigating climate change, success requires developing a framework or model for effective implementation across communities globally. Some project implementation scenarios will require further analysis such as establishing a without-project baseline, while most project implementation scenarios represent a great opportunity for project developers to invest in assisting local communities through training local members to engage in forest carbon mensuration, monitoring, reporting, and verification. What is demonstrated conclusively throughout the research conducting at the 38 locations in Papua New Guinea, Nepal, India, Tanzania, Mali and Senegal, is that community members easily adapt to successfully measuring and mapping forest carbon inventories through the use of hand-held computers after a short training course. In other words, while ensuring that communities are still able to access their forest resources in a sustainable fashion, the congruent break-even level for locally controlled forest carbon project profitability is roughly in the range of US$ 3.00 to US$ 5.00 per mtCO2e because local control implemented with training has a significant return to communities.

Through implementing local participatory geographic information system (PGIS) measuring and analysis, communities receive multiple benefits from job creation, spatial analysis, control, management, and equity. Ideally, community forests globally could easily access the capital markets to sell their offsets if the participants in the capital markets could provide a pooling mechanism to aggregate and then distribute the forest carbon revenue directly to the communities who control the 200 million forested hectare estate globally, as described by the authors.

In summary, the analysis presented throughout Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD is of critical importance to anyone interested in community equity development, forest carbon opportunities, capacity building, biodiversity protection, and climate change mitigation.

How to order
Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD
Edited by Margaret Skutsch
Hardcover: 208 Pages, €65.00
Publisher: Earthscan Publications
December 2010

Gabriel Thoumi frequently contributes to Mongabay.com.

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By Gabriel Thoumi, special to mongabay.com (May 03, 2011).

Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD.