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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 Georgia)
Project Dates: December 2013 through February 2018
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
In late 2017, the project team continued their efforts to apply forest classification methodology in Lampang Province, Thailand, a region that is home to the most common types of forests in the country, including varieties of both deciduous and evergreen forests. Based on their preliminary classification, they conducted a field survey August 30 – September 5, in collaboration with the Royal Forest Department of Thailand. The results of the field survey are being incorporated into the final forest classification and map. Meanwhile, the launch of high-performance cloud computing platforms has opened the door to low-cost and efficient national- and regional-scale geospatial data storage, processing, and analysis. Currently, the project team is working on a Google Earth Engine (GEE)-based mangrove forest classification, using freely available data from Landsat and Sentinel-2. In field survey sampling carried out on October 11, team members also tested the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

In Myanmar, daily maximum and minimum temperature and rainfall data from 17 stations on the Rakhine coast in the northwest, the Ayeyarwady Delta in the middle, and the Tanintharyi coast in the south were analyzed for evidence of long-term variation and changes in climate. The researchers are also studying the effect of sea level rise on the mangrove forest of the Ayeyarwady Delta to understand the implication of salinity on mangrove species composition, and they are identifying differences in how various species tolerate areas with various levels of salinity. Under the draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) of Myanmar, Mandalay Technology University, and the PI’s university, team members are already working to prepare training and teaching materials. Parties to the MoU met November 21-22, 2017, when the PI Dr. Chidthaisong and the director of JGSEE and core PEER project researcher Dr. Sirinthornthep Towprayoon visited ECD to discuss implementation. During the meeting, both sides agreed that JGSEE will provide consultation on setting up basic remote sensing capabilities and a GIS laboratory at the ECD, including consultation and brainstorming on the design, basic infrastructure, activity development, and basic GIS training courses. JGSEE and ECD will jointly seek external funding to support the development of a greenhouse gas inventory system in Myanmar. Meanwhile, ECD has sent four more new students to study at JGSEE, which has also accepted one new student from the Ministry of Agriculture of Myanmar. The final MoU will be signed during the project’s closing meeting. Although the PEER project is scheduled to end at the end of February 2018, implementation of the long-term plan being created is expected to take place from 2018 to 2021. During the remaining months of the PEER project, the PI and his colleagues are focusing on preparing a final analysis to determine a forest health index in Thailand and Myanmar, integrating Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, climate, and flux tower CO2 data. They will also begin implementing activities under the new teaching and training curriculum for Mandalay Technological University and ECD.

This project is approaching its closing date of February 28, 2018. As of mid-January, most of the proposed work has been completed, with the exception of the spatial and temporal forest carbon presentation and forest health index. These are currently being finalized and will be included in the final report. In addition, several manuscripts have been prepared, with some to be submitted within the project period and some later.

Project Website

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