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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 - May 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

Dr. Ometto and his team continued collecting LIDAR data in March and April 2018, receiving 59 new transects during this period out of the planned total of 381. The LIDAR aerial survey in the first part of the year was delayed due to the La Niña phenomenon, which leads to the increase in precipitation in the Amazon. This meteorological pattern increases cloud density over the region, which means the LIDAR sensor can’t collect precise information. This has postponed the rest of the LIDAR survey to the end of the year. Meanwhile during the second quarter of 2018, the team hosts a visit by U.S. partner Dr. Michael Keller to São José dos Campos, during which he and the Brazilian researchers discussed the methodology being applied to generate the biomass map of the Amazon forest. The meeting was very productive and several ideas arose regarding approaches for developing a new version of the biomass map. During the visit, the team also worked with Dr. Keller to collect field data around Paragominas city, Pará state.

From May 27 to June 2, PEER researcher Dr. Luciane Sato attended a course entitled "Monitoreo de Biodiversidad para Profesionales en Conservación y Desarrollo." The course was held at the Inkaterra field station in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. Her participation was very important in providing her broad knowledge about the development and conservation of biodiversity and the interpretation of variations in LIDAR scenes indicating vegetation diversity.

In addition to continuing their PEER-supported research activities, Dr. Ometto and his group are organizing two events in the coming months to disseminate their results to the scientific community and the general public. The first event is entitled “Amazônia em foco: a floresta de hoje do amanhã (Amazon in focus: the forest of today and tomorrow),” and it will be held in the Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janeiro on August 2.  The goal of this event is to discuss with a broad audience scientific knowledge about Amazon, the most recent results of the LIDAR campaign, and the ways science can contribute to the move towards sustainability in the Amazon region. The second event will be a special session at the 2018 conference of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), which will be held October 2-5 in Posadas, Misiones, Argentina. This conference will highlight the accelerated changes in imprints on our planet during the current Anthropocene Era, particularly the transformation of forest uses occurring in response to the pressures of globalization, population growth, resource scarcity, and ecological degradation. The PEER team will host a session entitled “Large-scale land use and change models and forest carbon estimates,” which will feature seven oral presentations and a poster exhibition highlighting selected papers. A no-cost extension has been issued on this PEER project through May 2019 to allow additional time for data collection, analysis, and dissemination.

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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