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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 through October 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.
2-473 North Thailand Field Survey2-473 North Thailand Field Survey 2
The project team surveys various forests during a field trip to northern Thailand (Photo courtesy of Dr. Chidthaisong)

Summary of Recent Activities
On the capacity building side of the project, the team conducted a workshop on geospatial-temporal analysis of climate data and remote sensing for vegetation monitoring using R. This workshop was held at JGSEE October 12-16, 2015, and provided training for 12 participants. As for research activities, during the last quarter of 2015 Dr. Chidthaisong and his group derived a detailed forest classification map (evergreen, deciduous, and mangrove forest) for 2005 and 2010 using Landsat imagery and field survey data. The results reveal that the total forest area of Thailand decreased during that five-year period. In addition, four study sites were chosen to measure tree biomass; this area contains around 100 GLAS foot prints, which later will be used for validating forest carbon maps in remote areas. The overall output of the forest carbon activity will be very useful in developing a national-scale forest carbon database. The team used a similar approach to classify the forest types in two regions of Myanmar (Ayeyarwady and Bago). Detailed classification schemes were applied to this region to classify deciduous, evergreen, and mangrove forests from 1995 to 2005. The preliminary results indicate that in both regions forest areas decreased, but ground truth methods will be used for accuracy assessment in the next phase of the project. In recent months, the team has also focused on studying a site in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand, to assess local forest phenology and its sensitivity to climate extremes. This experiment used remote sensing-based NDVI time series data from 2011 – 2014 and mapped the phenological parameters for each season. Preliminary results have suggested a shift in the phenological cycle by 1-2 months, but further investigations are being carried out to confirm these findings. The team’s future research is expected to reveal the responses of Thai forests to changes in climate conditions.

According to current plans for the first half of 2016, the team will be engaged in a variety of activities. They will validate their forest carbon maps for all of Thailand (1990 – 2010) and Myanmar (1995 – 2010) and update their forest databases for both countries using recent satellite data from 1990- 2015 to subdivide it by individual forest types. The researchers will also conduct field surveys for biomass measurement in Myanmar February 14-20, 2016, and March 14- 20, 2016. Finally, they will also test Lidar observations for biomass measurement at selected sites. This project has been extended through October 2016 to allow time to complete all the planned activities.

Project Website

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