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Impacts of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Carbon Stocks

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Improving estimates of forest carbon stocks

Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have included considerations of a mechanism for ensuring reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This involves reducing deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks (all together known as REDD+) in developing countries.

Climate Change and Environment

The aim of the I-REDD+ (Impacts of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing carbon stocks) project was to obtain a better understanding of the implementation of the REDD+ mechanisms, both from a technical perspective (do we understand carbon stocks in all landscapes?) and an implementation perspective (is REDD+ feasible from a socio-economic perspective?). I-REDD+ focused on forest degradation and worked in mosaic landscapes characterized by both forest and agriculture in the uplands of Southeast Asia. It is a region where REDD+ activities will be implemented amidst complex land-use systems, tenure regimes and, possibly, conflicting interests. It is also a region where rapid changes in forest and land use are taking place. Furthermore, potentially large gains can be made by applying REDD+ in order to mitigate GHG emissions. The selected study sites in Yunnan (China), northern Laos, northern Vietnam and Kalimantan (Indonesia) represented a gradient of ecological conditions, economic development and governance structures. They were all characterised by being dominated currently, or in the very recent past, by shifting cultivation. All the field sites are experiencing land-use changes, but in different ways and at a different pace. The main results revealed that belowground biomass was underestimated in shifting cultivation landscapes, especially in the secondary forests that emerge when fields are under fallow. Therefore, new methods (allometric equations) were developed for improved carbon accounting during land-use changes in such areas. Moreover, it was shown that local communities can accurately and cost-effectively monitor carbon stock changes in these dynamic landscapes as they achieve similar results as professional foresters. This shows the value of integrating communities in national carbon stock assessments and it also reinforces the provision of control rights to local communities. In addition, researchers developed new remote sensing-based methods for carbon accounting in landscapes with shifting cultivation and degraded forests. Overall, the results will affect policies on how REDD+ deals with mosaic landscapes in the tropics. These landscapes may be considerably more valuable for climate change mitigation than previously thought. In addition, the remote sensing techniques developed specifically for monitoring these landscapes can integrate the new carbon stock results and use community-based measurement as ground verification to adjust larger-scale carbon accounting estimates. Therefore, the combination of better carbon stock assessment, more detailed remote sensing-based forest monitoring and a better understanding of how local people can be involved in REDD+ will prove extremely useful for national forest and carbon monitoring systems.

Keywords

Forest, carbon stocks, greenhouse gas, deforestation, forest degradation, land use, community-based monitoring

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