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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
US 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 Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment (JGSEE) and the Royal Thai Forest Department (RFD) held two joint consultation meetings in March 2014. During the meeting on March 26, a team of independent researchers was formed, including members from both institutions. The team began implementing the study plan in Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima Province, where RFD has existing field inventory sites. Thanks to the partnership, the project team has improved reporting, robustness, and transparency by improving the methodology for calculating forest cover, above-ground biomass, and carbon stock changes. These techniques are being applied to satellite imagery of both Myanmar and Thailand. The data preprocessing for this phase of the project is under way, and the project team has chosen Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park as a study site.

To assist in developing capacity for forest mapping and management in Myanmar, an initial training session entitled “Mapping forest and forest carbon change using remote sensing” is scheduled to take place in Myanmar in either May or June 2014. For this event, the Thai project team is working with their partners at Yezin Agriculture University, as well as the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) of Myanmar. The purpose of the training is to support data acquisition, installation and operation of technical hardware and software for processing remotely sensed data. A workshop with an RFD researcher on applications of satellite data and tools (remote sensing and GIS) for forest mapping and monitoring is in the planning stages. The main goal of this event would be to share the technical knowledge in all partner institutions to maintain a common platform for data analysis and sharing

The initial fieldwork at Khao Yai National Park is scheduled for May 2014. It will be a two- to three-day visit to check the current status of forest inventories and choose a suitable site for random sampling for forest cover, above-ground biomass, and carbon stock. It is also hoped that preliminary site selection in Myanmar can be completed to complement the work being done in Thailand. Recruitment of PhD students in Myanmar has proceeded more slowly than expected, so additional outreach seminars are being organized to identify local practitioners in the country who might wish to become involved as graduate students on the project.

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