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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 - November 2019

Project Overview

4-209 Georeferencing of plots
Georeferencing of field plots.

Recently, the Earth System Science Center (CCST) 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

As previously reported, this PEER research team carried out a field campaign in Brazil’s Tocantins state April 15-27, 2019. They visited the municipalities of Palmas, Rio Sono, Aparecida do Rio Negro, Santa Tereza do Tocantins, Alta Ponte de Tocantins, Mateiros, São Félix do Tocantins, and Novo Acordo, as well as Alto Parnaíba in the state of Maranhão, covering a total of approximately 6,000 km. As a means of recording and characterizing the landscapes they encountered, they collected coordinates via GPS and linked them with descriptive phyto-physiognomic and photographic records. Occasionally, the researchers also collected botanical samples to assist in obtaining the correct landscape characterizations. All told, they took 468 photographs and recorded data on 200 georeferenced descriptive points.

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

Also during the second quarter of 2019, Nathália Nascimento, a PhD student under PI Dr. Jean Ometto’s supervision, published a paper related to the project activities supported with PEER funds. Her co-authors on the paper included the PI, as well as colleagues from New Zealand and Germany. The paper can be accessed using the following link:  

As the project moves towards it close at the end of November 2019, the team is preparing for another field campaign, with the dates still being worked out as of mid-July.

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