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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 from January to March 2018. During this period 60 new transects were received from the total of 381, leaving 183 to be delivered by the end of April. The team has also produced a new version of their biomass map for the Amazon Biome, utilizing 50% of the transects delivered so far. The next step will be to produce the final version of the biomass map, which will be important to support and contribute to understanding and quantifying the dynamics of carbon stocks in the Amazon Biome. It should also provide important perspectives on the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism.

In March 2018, project member Mauro Assis held a webinar in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on the theme: Estimation of forest biomass using LiDAR point clouds. During the web conference, he explained the concept of biomass and described what LIDAR data are, how they are acquired, and the methodology used by the team to improve biomass estimation methods and emission estimation models for land-use and land-cover change. Finally, working in collaboration with U.S. partner Dr. Michael Keller, the researchers are conducting a forest inventory. Already they have collected 108 plots of the planned total of 158 in Paragominas city, located in Pará state.

Project team member Dr. Luciane Sato will participate in the course “Biodiversity monitoring for professionals in conservation and development,” organized by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Peru May 27 to June 2, 2018. The course aims to train professionals with information and knowledge regarding the implementation of biodiversity monitoring and evaluation programs. The course will feature presentations by professionals specializing in coastal, Andean and Amazonian ecosystems, as well as fieldwork and teamwork. From November 1 through 5, members of the project will participate in a conference on “Adaptive management for forested landscapes in transformation” in Argentina. This event is being convened by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. The conference will focus on discussing accelerated changes in the forest and will propose key issues to assess problems and identify solutions for a better future in forested landscapes. The PEER LIDAR project will be responsible for a thematic session at the conference entitled “Large-scale land use and change models and forest carbon estimates.” The session will feature invited speakers and presentations.

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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