Measuring Carbon Changes and Future Deforestation

by Maithili Joshi

It is important to maintain tropical forests because of their role as carbon sinks, its vast biodiversity, and vital resources that we commonly use. These important features drive many United Nations policies that protect forests and their abundance of tree species. However, quantifying the usefulness of these polices is difficult. Gonzalez et al.(2014) aimed to quantify tree biodiversity, historical land cover and carbon changes and uncertainties, and lastly project potential future forest carbon changes and uncertainties. This study was conducted in Selva Central, Peru at the western end of the Amazon Basin. Specifically the project area was the Selva Baja (lowland Amazonian rainforest), Yungas (low elevation ontaine rainforest), and Ceja de la Montaña (mid-elevation cloud forest). 18 field inventory plots were established and classified into two different forest classes – old growth forest and secondary forests. To determine species richness, a list of tree species were compiled; assembled tree data by plot area (1ha), species density inside the plot was examined. Next, Monte Carlo analysis was used to calculate carbon density from tree measurements. Monte Carlo analysis is used to test for statistical significance in relation to carbon emissions. Using allometric equations, they calculated the biomass of each tree; by looking at the mean wood density, the densities were applied to unknown tree species in both tree plots respectively. Landsat satellite Global Land Survey data examined spatial locations and vegetation types between 1989 and 2005 and it was compared to data collected between 2000-2004. Distance to non-forest, distance to forest for reforestation, elevation, slope, distance to rivers, distance to roads, and distance to villages or towns were examined to look at specific factors of deforestation. Using historical data, the authors wanted to find the historical live carbon between 1989-2005 using Monte Carlo analysis, the sensitivity of uncertainty of net carbon change to the values of each variable was analyzed. Projections of future land cover and carbon were created using historical patterns of deforestation and reforestation. Forest cover data was calculated at high, low, and central probabilities for the year 2021. It was found that estimated carbon emissions were statistically significant. In their field inventory 438 tree species, 115 genera, and 65 families were found. Further, old growth forests contain more mature species and families, and higher total species. In old-growth forest sites, 70% of above ground biomass is found in late-successional species and 30% in early-successional species. The opposite was true in secondary forests. These results also show a positive correlation between carbon density and species richness, which was also true in secondary forests. This suggests the benefits of forest conservation are increased biodiversity and increased carbon storage. It also supports that tree species composition will influence carbon storage in tropical forests. When looking at forest carbon, tree density double in old-growth forests than secondary forests, and carbon density is double in old-growth than secondary forests. When looking at the results of land cover, old growth forests covered three quarters of the area in 1989, and decreased by two-thirds by 2005. When looking at factors of possible deforestation, protected areas remained 95% intact. They concluded that distance to roads and towns are the first and second highest factors explaining historical deforestation. As a result, future deforestation will probably occur near towns, roads and previously deforested areas. Conversely, reforestation will continue in areas recovering from agricultural clearing, leading to a slow net decline in deforestation. Further, protected forests have a significant impact in reducing deforestation, however, their isolation the true reason for their protection. Elevation doesn’t seem to have clear impact on carbon density. Finally, they concluded that effective forest conservation could avoid significant emissions using a REDD+ project.

Gonzalez, P., Kroll, B., Vargas, C., 2014, Tropical rainforest biodiversity and aboveground carbon changes and uncertainties in the Selva Central, Peru, Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 312, Pages 78–91

TAGS: Patrick Gonzalez, Benjamín Kroll, Carlos R. Vargas, Selva Central, Peru, Carbon Changes, Deforestation, Reforestation

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