They integrated field data with satellite imagery and high-resolution airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to map the vegetation and to quantify carbon stocks throughout the Republic of Panama.
This is the first high-resolution national carbon map. The highest carbon stocks in Panama are in the humid forests on the Caribbean side (red). The lowest carbon stocks are in developed areas (blue).
Credit: Image courtesy Carnegie Airborne Observatory
The results are the first maps that report carbon stocks locally in areas as small as a hectare (2.5 acres) and yet cover millions of hectares in a short time. The system has the lowest demonstrated uncertainty of any carbon-counting approach yet—a carbon estimation uncertainty of about 10% in each hectare overflown with LiDAR as compared to field-based estimates. Importantly, it can be used across a wide range of vegetation types worldwide.
The new system, described in Carbon Balance and Management, will greatly boost conservation and efforts to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration. It will also inform our understanding of how carbon storage can be used to assess other fundamental ecosystem characteristics such as hydrology, habitat quality, and biodiversity. The approach provides much-needed technical support for carbon-based economic activities such as the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program* in developing countries.
Panama has complex landscapes, with variable topography, and diverse ecosystems (ranging from grasslands and mangroves to shrublands and dense forests). As a result, Panama is an ideal laboratory to develop and test a method for quantifying aboveground carbon.
Lead author Greg Asner commented: "Three things make this national-scale study unique. First, Panama is an outstanding place for testing carbon mapping approaches due in part to the long-term forest studies that have been undertaken by our partners at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Second, we have applied the very latest techniques using high-performance instrumentation, resulting in demonstrably high accuracy at fine spatial resolution. And third the partnership permitted us to estimate our errors in a novel way, and we did so over every point on Panamanian soil."
In addition to Carnegie and STRI researchers, scientists from McGill University and UC-Berkeley combined measurement methods—an extensive and essential network of ground-based plot sampling, satellite imagery, and LiDAR measurements from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory—to achieve the unprecedented accuracy.
LiDAR uses reflected laser light to image vegetation canopy structure in 3-D. The scientists calibrated the LiDAR measurements, taken at one-meter resolution throughout nearly one million acres (390,000 hectares), to the carbon density in 228 regional field plots, established and sampled by the collaborating scientists. They used 91 other plots to validate the LiDAR's aboveground carbon density estimates.
"Rarely has such a large number of field plots been available to validate LiDAR calibration independently," remarked Asner. "Our collaboration with STRI and its partners was vital to assess the accuracy of what we achieved from the air."
Traditional carbon monitoring has relied upon on-the-ground sampling of field plots, but this approach usually represents just small areas of land and is time-consuming. "There has been growing interest in using satellite imagery to cover larger areas, but it is low resolution both spatially and in terms of the structural information about the vegetation," described Carnegie author Joseph Mascaro. "In some parts of Panama, different global methods disagree by more than 100% at square-kilometer scale."
That's where the airborne LiDAR comes in. It directly probes the ecosystem's physical structure, which Carnegie scientists have repeatedly proven to be tightly linked to tropical carbon stocks. These measurements are the bedrock for mapping and estimating the amount of carbon locked up in plants from dense forests to shrublands.
The researchers then were able to scale up the plot and LiDAR data with freely available satellite data on topography, rainfall and vegetation to model carbon stocks at the national level.
The LiDAR and satellite combination were able to account for variations in the carbon pattern from differences in elevation, slope, climate, and fractional canopy cover over the entire country. For instance, the scientists found that highest carbon levels are in humid forests on the Caribbean side of Panama, often exceeding 110 tons of carbon per hectare (2.5 acres). In contrast, large regions were deforested to very low carbon levels, such as in the developed regions outside the protected watershed of the Panama Canal. Human activity is the overwhelming driver of carbon stock patterns in Panama.
"Panama is one of the first UN REDD partner countries, and these new maps put the country at the forefront of high-resolution ecosystem management." said co-author and STRI's director Eldredge Bermingham, "The new carbon mapping approach could be the model for other tropical nations."
*The objective of UN-REDD+ is to create a financial incentive for developing countries to protect their forest resources in order to offset increasing carbon emissions. By creating financial value for the carbon stored in trees, the aim is to make forests more valuable standing than they would be harvested or destroyed.
The Carnegie Airborne Observatory is made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Avatar Alliance Foundation, W. M. Keck Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Mary Anne Nyburg Baker and G. Leonard Baker Jr., and William R. Hearst III.
The Department of Global Ecology was established in 2002 to help build the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. The department is located on the campus of Stanford University, but is an independent research organization funded by the Carnegie Institution. Its scientists conduct basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity.
The research reported in this article was based on funding to the CAO described above, a Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment grant to STRI, in addition to Grantham funding for the CAO, SIGEO/ForestGEO funds from the Smithsonian Institution and STRI, and support to the CAO Panama project from William R. Hearst III.
The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegieScience.edu) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics, and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. See http://www.stri.si.edu
Image of Panama's carbon map http://carnegiescience.edu/panamas_carbon_map
Watch the Carnegie Airborne Observatory make the world's highest resolution carbon map of a country (Panama) in less than one minute http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fQwv4coRR8
For copies of the paper contact the author
Greg Asner | EurekAlert!
Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research