Developing REDD+ schemes must consider the implications of uncertainty and scale

Maps of tree cover that were used for developing schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation have errors. It’s all about scale and pixels, say Betha Lusiana and colleagues

By Robert Finlayson

The ability of any scheme to meet its national target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+) requires understanding how its processes are linked across scales, from local through provincial to national and international levels. A single approach to reduce deforestation that is effective for a project in several villages might not be as effective at an aggregated level, such as a district.

Accordingly, scale must be addressed in REDD+ schemes, including highly technical activities such as satellite mapping of vegetation cover. This is a critical feature, since knowing how the amount of carbon stock in the form of vegetation, of what type, and how it changes over time determines payments to local people for preserving, adding to, or depleting the stock.

Having a good carbon map is important for being able to monitor carbon being sequestered or emitted over time. For incentive schemes, having a map that fits closely to the reality on the ground is also important. Developing emission maps requires information in the form of land-cover maps and aboveground carbon stocks for every land-use type in the landscape. However, both types of information have errors and uncertainty.  For example, when looking at a satellite image, rubber agroforests can be visually mistaken for natural forests (even in the field it can be difficult for untrained eyes to tell them apart) and the amount of carbon stock in each type of tree cover can vary substantially, which means that when changes to the stock are monitored and aligned with payments for preservation, enhancement or reduction of said stock, there could be large errors and hence incorrect payments.

To address this, we set out to identify an appropriate resolution for mapping carbon stock in a REDD+ scheme. This work was part of a study we conducted—discussed more fully in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change—to design effective emission-reduction activities in Tanjung Jabung Barat (a high-emission district in Jambi province, Indonesia) that can be implemented by the district government.

The study of resolution accuracy involved two steps. First, we developed emission maps for the district that identified changes in aboveground carbon stocks between 2000 and 2009. The maps included calculations that allowed for uncertainty caused by errors in land-cover-map classifications and the variation of carbon, representing the many possible carbons stored in a similar-size plot of a given type of vegetation. Second, we calculated estimates of emissions based on various resolutions from the maps developed in step 1.

From this process, we were able to propose an appropriate scale for monitoring emissions from land-use changes: for anThe effect of scale on hot spots of carbon emissions in Tanjung Jabung Barat, Jambi, Indonesia, between 2000 and 2009. Pixel resolution of 100 m equals pixel area of 1 ha and pixel resolution of 1000 m equals pixel area of 1 km2. Source: World Agroforestacceptable error of 5% (to put it another way: 95% accuracy), planners should use an emissions map with pixel resolution of 1000 m, equal to a pixel size of 1 km2.

We compared this with a map developed by planners in Tanjung Jabung Barat, who had been involved in a participatory planning process with communities, businesses and government agencies to come up with ways of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and found that the schemes they had in mind would be served well by a map with resolution of 1 km2.

Read the article

Lusiana B, van Noordwijk M, Johana F, Galudra G, Suyanto, Cadisch G. 2014.Implications of uncertainty and scale in carbon emission estimates on locally appropriate designs to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+). Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Peru: Ministry of Environment work with ASB partners to evaluate methodology for low emissions development planning

By Glenn Hyman and Valentina Robiglio

A lot of research and development deals with different aspects of reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation (REDD+). But how can we really get change on the ground? Last week collaborators of the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins presented an approach to low emissions development planning to the Directorate of Land Use Planning and the National Forest Conservation Program, Programa Bosques, of the Ministry of Environment of Peru (MINAM) in a three days demonstration workshop.

William Llactayo of MINAM opened the

The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Environment of Peru (MINAM) and involved researchers from the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Participants from the various directorates of the MINAM were trained in the Land-Use Planning for Low Emission Development Strategies (LUWES) methodology, which consists of the development of future land use and zoning scenarios and the calculation of the impacts of land use change on greenhouse gas emissions. Working in groups and using ABACUS software,  they combined information on land-use, carbon stocks and profitability for land-use systems in the Ucayali  region where research on this topic has been carried out by the ASB partners over several years. The results included an analysis of opportunity costs of avoided deforestation, estimates of CO2 emissions under different scenarios and the calculation of a reference emissions levels for REDD+.  

MINAM is now evaluating the possibility of implementing this methodology in their land-use planning processes. Given that every region of the country has a mandate to create land-use plans, this process could be a vehicle for including considerations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the conservation of other ecosystem services in development plans.  The expectation is that efforts to reduce emissions can be more efficient if they are connected to land-use planning processes. Read in Spanish

Working groups discussed low emissions

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