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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Analysis of historical forest carbon changes in Myanmar and Thailand and the contribution of climate variability and extreme weather events

PI: Amnat Chidthaisong (The Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment), with co-PI Khin Lay Swe, Yezin Agriculture University
U.S. Partners: Merryl Alber and Monique Y. LeClerc (University of Georgoa)
Project Dates: December 2013 to January 2016
This project will focus on forest locations in two tropical countries, Thailand and Myanmar, to investigate forest responses to climate variability and extreme climate events. The project aims to increase scientific knowledge by merging advanced remote sensing techniques and geographic information systems technology with eddy flux tower measurements to track changes in tropical forest carbon stock and exchanges that respond to historical extreme climate conditions. This knowledge will help improve our understanding of the unknown key driving forces affecting forest health changes and associated processes occurring in Southeast Asia, including carbon gain and loss, water stress, and response mechanisms to stresses.
This project will lead to at least three pillars of development impacts. First, in order to institute appropriate forestry management to maintain a sustainable forest and its ecosystem, we need greater scientific knowledge of historical change in forests responding to extreme events. The results of this project will help us differentiate between changes due to natural extreme events and those due to anthropogenic effects. Second, in supporting the implementation of agreements under international climate negotiation schemes, forest and carbon maps from this project can serve as the basis for a greenhouse gas inventory and national baselines in both Thailand and Myanmar. Finally, building capacity through training, workshops, and a summer school conducted in this project will serve as a platform to disseminate knowledge and know-how among participants from these two countries and other ASEAN nations. This is expected to create linkages among a network of scientists and researchers for further collaboration.
Summary of Recent Activities
The highlight of the last quarter of 2014 on this PEER project was the successful organization of a training workshop on Climate Data Analysis and Vegetation Monitoring Using R, which was held at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), October 14-17. The 22 participants included representatives from the academic community and the private and government sectors from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Myanmar. The workshop was designed to introduce environmental and climate scientists to open source R programming with the aim of showing how it can be utilized in common climate and satellite data analysis. The training incorporated theoretical presentations, exercises, and practical work using personal computers. Guest speakers lectured on the basics of climate and satellite data and remote sensing, and through exercises and practical work participants had the opportunity to apply data analysis methodologies to working with actual data. The course also covered basic and advanced topics showing the power of the open source R programming language for data analysis.

On the research side, Dr. Chidthaisong and his team have obtained preliminary results from their study of changes in forest cover from 1990 to 2010 in selected areas in eastern Thailand (Kaho Yai, Ta Phraya, Tablan and Pang Sida National Park) and central Myanmar (Taunggyi District). Various analytical methods are being used to correct for the rugged topography of the sites, which affects the brightness of elements of sunlit landscapes in satellite imagery. The compiled data on CO2 fluxes, latent, and sensible heat fluxes from the Ratchaburi site during 2010-2014 and their relationships with the vegetation index are also being investigated. The project partners held a closed progress meeting January 30, 2015, at the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, KMUTT to discuss overall project progress and future plans for the coming year. The team is working to obtain official permission from the Environmental Conservation Department of Myanmar's Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) and from the Royal Thai Forest Department (RFD) to set up the inventories and conduct field surveys in relevant study areas. They are designing and planning the framework and methodology for a forest field survey that will take place in eastern Thailand in the second week of February 2015 and in Myanmar the second week of March 2015.

For more detailed updates, please visit the project website at  

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