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      Integrated radar and lidar analysis reveals extensive loss of remaining intact forest on Sumatra 2007–2010

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      Biogeosciences

      Copernicus GmbH

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          Abstract

          <p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Forests with high above-ground biomass (AGB), including those growing on peat swamps, have historically not been thought suitable for biomass mapping and change detection using synthetic aperture radar (SAR). However, by integrating L-band (λ = 0.23 m) SAR from the ALOS and lidar from the ICESat Earth-Observing satellites with 56 field plots, we were able to create a forest biomass and change map for a 10.7 Mha section of eastern Sumatra that still contains high AGB peat swamp forest. Using a time series of SAR data we estimated changes in both forest area and AGB. We estimate that there was 274 ± 68 Tg AGB remaining in natural forest (&amp;geq; 20 m height) in the study area in 2007, with this stock reducing by approximately 11.4 % over the subsequent 3 years. A total of 137.4 kha of the study area was deforested between 2007 and 2010, an average rate of 3.8 % yr<sup>−1</sup>. <br><br> The ability to attribute forest loss to different initial biomass values allows for far more effective monitoring and baseline modelling for avoided deforestation projects than traditional, optical-based remote sensing. Furthermore, given SAR's ability to penetrate the smoke and cloud which normally obscure land cover change in this region, SAR-based forest monitoring can be relied on to provide frequent imagery. This study demonstrates that, even at L-band, which typically saturates at medium biomass levels (ca. 150 Mg ha<sup>−1</sup>), in conjunction with lidar data, it is possible to make reliable estimates of not just the area but also the carbon emissions resulting from land use change.</p>

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          Most cited references 27

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          High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change.

          Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil's well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.
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            Tree allometry and improved estimation of carbon stocks and balance in tropical forests.

            Tropical forests hold large stores of carbon, yet uncertainty remains regarding their quantitative contribution to the global carbon cycle. One approach to quantifying carbon biomass stores consists in inferring changes from long-term forest inventory plots. Regression models are used to convert inventory data into an estimate of aboveground biomass (AGB). We provide a critical reassessment of the quality and the robustness of these models across tropical forest types, using a large dataset of 2,410 trees >or= 5 cm diameter, directly harvested in 27 study sites across the tropics. Proportional relationships between aboveground biomass and the product of wood density, trunk cross-sectional area, and total height are constructed. We also develop a regression model involving wood density and stem diameter only. Our models were tested for secondary and old-growth forests, for dry, moist and wet forests, for lowland and montane forests, and for mangrove forests. The most important predictors of AGB of a tree were, in decreasing order of importance, its trunk diameter, wood specific gravity, total height, and forest type (dry, moist, or wet). Overestimates prevailed, giving a bias of 0.5-6.5% when errors were averaged across all stands. Our regression models can be used reliably to predict aboveground tree biomass across a broad range of tropical forests. Because they are based on an unprecedented dataset, these models should improve the quality of tropical biomass estimates, and bring consensus about the contribution of the tropical forest biome and tropical deforestation to the global carbon cycle.
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              The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997.

              Tropical peatlands are one of the largest near-surface reserves of terrestrial organic carbon, and hence their stability has important implications for climate change. In their natural state, lowland tropical peatlands support a luxuriant growth of peat swamp forest overlying peat deposits up to 20 metres thick. Persistent environmental change-in particular, drainage and forest clearing-threatens their stability, and makes them susceptible to fire. This was demonstrated by the occurrence of widespread fires throughout the forested peatlands of Indonesia during the 1997 El Niño event. Here, using satellite images of a 2.5 million hectare study area in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, from before and after the 1997 fires, we calculate that 32% (0.79 Mha) of the area had burned, of which peatland accounted for 91.5% (0.73 Mha). Using ground measurements of the burn depth of peat, we estimate that 0.19-0.23 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon were released to the atmosphere through peat combustion, with a further 0.05 Gt released from burning of the overlying vegetation. Extrapolating these estimates to Indonesia as a whole, we estimate that between 0.81 and 2.57 Gt of carbon were released to the atmosphere in 1997 as a result of burning peat and vegetation in Indonesia. This is equivalent to 13-40% of the mean annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and contributed greatly to the largest annual increase in atmospheric CO(2) concentration detected since records began in 1957 (ref. 1).
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Biogeosciences
                Biogeosciences
                Copernicus GmbH
                1726-4189
                2015
                November 23 2015
                : 12
                : 22
                : 6637-6653
                10.5194/bg-12-6637-2015
                © 2015

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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