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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Lidar remote sensing of Brazilian Amazon forests: Analysis of forest biomass, forest degradation, and secondary regrowth

PI: Jean Ometto (, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE)
U.S. Partner: Michael Keller, USDA - Forest Service
Project Dates: November 2015 - February 2019

Project Overview

4-209 Georeferencing of plots
Georeferencing of field plots.

Recently, the Earth System Science Center at INPE received substantial funding from the Amazon Fund-BNDES to improve knowledge of land use change and carbon budgets in the Brazilian Amazon. As part of this project, INPE plans to contract Lidar (light detection and ranging or laser scanning) remote sensing flights to acquire forest structure information over the Amazon that can be used to improve our knowledge of forest biomass. These data will substantially overcome the current limitations of insufficient and biased sampling of the Brazilian Amazon forest and provide the first large-scale, statistically balanced characterization of forest carbon stocks across the Amazon region. The experimental design will not only estimate carbon stocks across the region but also identify the proportions of forest that are currently secondary or degraded and thus are potentially large carbon sinks in the future. The Lidar data calibrated by a network of ground-based forest inventories will be used to achieve three objectives:

1. Reduce the uncertainty in the quantification of the above-ground carbon stocks of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon
2. Provide improved estimates of carbon emissions from deforestation and avoided carbon loss from reducing deforestation policies in the Brazilian Amazon region
3. Improve our ability to predict future carbon fluxes in the Brazilian Amazon by quantifying the current biomass status of secondary and degraded forests.

This project should improve the estimation of carbon emissions from deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and construct a sound basis for future emissions scenarios, considering different options of land use and land cover change. Several strategies, policies, and compensation mechanisms have been proposed to minimize the impact of human actions on the natural forest. Among those, effective implementation of REDD+, soy and beef moratoria, and establishment of conservation units can benefit from better calculation of the balance between carbon emission by deforestation and forest degradation, and uptake, by secondary vegetation and mature forest growth. Through capacity building activities, this project will train young researchers in Lidar estimates of biomass, statistical biomass modeling and mapping, and emissions modeling. The data gathered will be a resource for the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation to produce the National Inventories on GHG emissions. The Brazilian Earth System Model, currently under development at INPE and associated universities and research institutes, is also an obvious client of the planned database. Finally, through its leadership in forest monitoring activities, Brazil has the potential to share its knowledge and technologies with neighboring countries, especially those of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organization. 

Summary of Recent Activities

During October through December 2017, Dr. Ometto and his colleagues on this project continued receiving the Lidar data being collected, with 130 new transects of a total of 381 being delivered during this time by the Lidar provider. Within this quarter they also conducted two field campaigns in the states of Manaus and Amazonas, in the cities of Autazes and Tefé. Both campaigns had the objective of collecting geographical location using the differential global positioning system (GPS). This procedure was necessary to accurately determine the plots on the Lidar images. In partnership with U.S. partner Dr. Michael Keller, the team has also initiated a new field inventory in which 158 parcels will be measured in the municipality of Paragominas, in the state of Pará.

In October 2017, a field course entitled “Amazon and Climate Change: a course of integration of data models” was organized in the Biological Reserve of Cuieiras - ZF2 in Manaus. The course was organized in partnership with the AmazonFACE and the AmazonFund/INPE project. The central objective was to discuss and teach theories and methodologies of research in the field of climate change in the Amazon Forest. The lectures presented primarily covered the ecological and socioeconomic consequences of climate change in the region from the perspective of modelling and data integration. The course schedule was divided into three periods: introductory lectures on Day 1; field measurements in ZF2 on Days 2-4, during which the students were divided into three groups according to the data model used; and integration of the themes on Day 5. On this last day, participants considered the ecosystem as a whole and discussed and evaluated the data on the forest die-back theory, based on global vegetation model dynamics (LPJ-GUESS).

As the project continues in its third year in early 2018, the PI and his group will continue receiving, processing, and analyzing Lidar data. A new biomass map of the Amazon is being produced with the data previously collected for future publications. In addition, field data for the ongoing forest inventory being carried out on the project will be used to calibrate the forest biome map of the Amazon biome that will be produced with Lidar data.

4-209 Data Collection 24-209 Data Collection
The team conducts extensive data collection activities in the Amazon (Photos courtesy of Dr. Ometto).

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