Role of remote sensing and community forestry to manage forests for the effective implementation of REDD+ mechanism: a case study on Cambodia

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  • CASE STUDY

    Role of remote sensing and community forestryto manage forests for the effective implementationof REDD+ mechanism: a case study on Cambodia

    Ram Avtar Haruo Sawada Pankaj Kumar

    Received: 1 November 2012 / Accepted: 5 March 2013 / Published online: 14 March 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

    Abstract In this study, we have shown the importance of remote sensing applicationsand community forestry for forest management, discussed as a case study on Cambodian

    forest management. Curbing deforestation is necessary for the effective implementation of

    Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forests Degradation (REDD?) mechanism

    and management of forest resources to support sustainable forest management plans. The

    updated information of the forest cover and forest biomass using advanced remote sensing

    techniques can be useful for selecting the suitable sites for planned thinning, reforestation,

    community forestry, and concession land, which eventually will help in controlling the

    deforestation in Cambodia. To overcome the limitations of remote sensing, an integrated

    approach of remote sensing and community forestry to monitor forests from local to

    national level has also been discussed.

    Keywords REDD? Community forestry Remote sensing Forest management

    1 Introduction

    Forests are one of the greatest natural assets which provide ecological, social, and eco-

    nomic services (FAO 1995). They act as a sink for global carbon cycle (Running and

    Nemani 1988; Running et al. 1989; Sivanpillai et al. 2006). Ecologically, forests provide

    habitat for numerous animal and plant species and they play a key role in nutrient cycling,

    hydrology, and other vital ecosystem functions (Kimmins 1996). Forests are economically

    important to humans and they are used for timber, building materials, paper, fuel, and other

    R. Avtar (&) H. SawadaInstitute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8505, Japane-mail: ram.envjnu@gmail.com

    R. AvtarInstitute for Sustainability and Peace, United Nations University, Tokyo 153-8925, Japan

    P. KumarInstitute of Science and Technology fro Advance Studies and Research, Anand, Gujarat 388120, India

    123

    Environ Dev Sustain (2013) 15:15931603DOI 10.1007/s10668-013-9448-y

  • requirements. They also provide livelihoods to the local and indigenous people. To meet

    the growing demands of forest products globally for rapid developments, the depletion of

    forest resources have been accelerating in the last few decades (Suzuki et al. 2006). A

    recent FRA (Forest Resource Assessment) report shows that deforestation caused a loss of

    about 13 million hectare of tropical forests per year from the year 2000 to 2010 (FRA

    2010). It contributes about 17 % of greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2007; Schrope 2009;

    Werf et al. 2009; Avtar et al. 2011a, 2012a, 2012b). Khatun (2011) has noticed that the

    major strategies to decrease atmospheric CO2 through preserving existing forest carbon

    stocks and planting trees by better management techniques. Therefore, we have to adopt

    appropriate management practices to ensure ecological integrity and long-term sustain-

    ability of forest resources.

    To mitigate climate change, most of the present researches are being concentrated on

    afforestation, reforestation, reducing deforestation, and degradation to minimize atmo-

    spheric CO2 levels (Gorte and Ramseur 2008; Pritchard 2009). This can be accomplished

    by examining the present forest management plans of developing countries and their

    strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for the effective implementation of REDD?

    mechanism (Angelsen 2009). It will not only provide financial support to the developing

    countries but also provide financial benefit to the communities and indigenous people

    (Angelson 2009; Costenbader 2011). Local and indigenous people could play an important

    role to protect forest and other ecosystem services because they have adequate knowledge

    of ground-based reality (Sobrevila 2008; Bond et al. 2009). REDD? has been given high

    priority to mitigate climate change in the last Conference of Parties (COP) 15 (Copen-

    hagen) and COP16 (Cancun). However, the outcome for REDD? at COP18 was quite

    disappointing for its supporters as most of the objectives were postponed till 2013.

    Most of the forest management plans are traditionally based on production in even-aged

    forest stands, with planting, thinning, and final felling (Backeus 2009). Previous studies

    have shown that prolonging the rotation period or reducing the intensity of the thinning can

    increase carbon sequestration (Kaipainen et al. 2004; Liski et al. 2005; Kellomaki and

    Leinonen 2005; Pohjola and Valsta 2007). Conservation of existing forest cover is crucial

    for the success of future REDD? strategies to mitigate climate change. This is only possible

    by controlling the drivers of deforestation. Hence, updated information about forest cover,

    deforestation, and forest biomass will be helpful for the prediction of deforestation drivers

    as well as the selection of suitable sites for thinning and plantation practices.

    REDD? mechanism will be required to establish a reliable, transparent, and consistent

    system of measuring, reporting, and verifying (MRV) to monitor forest cover and changes

    in forest carbon stocks. Remote sensing techniques can be effectively used to map forest

    cover and deforestation. However, measurement of forest biomass using satellite data still

    has some uncertainties (Samalca 2007; Macauley et al. 2009). These uncertainties are

    mainly because of errors in locating sampling plots on ground and satellite data, mea-

    surement of trees biophysical parameters (diameter at breast height (DBH), height, den-

    sity, and crown diameter), allometric models, saturation of satellite signal, geometric and

    radiometric corrections of satellite data, and modeling the relationship between field-based

    above ground biomass and satellite spectral response. The key to reducing uncertainties in

    these parameters is to identify their sources and minimizing them (Wang et al. 2011). In

    order to minimize these uncertainties in biomass measurement, the participation of local

    communities can certainly help (Danielsen et al. 2011).

    This study is elaborating the application and limitation of remote sensing techniques for

    the management of Cambodian forests as well as encouraging the role of local commu-

    nities for forest management. In this context, it is important to obtain reliable and

    1594 R. Avtar et al.

    123

  • consistent information of forest cover, deforestation, and forest biomass to support sus-

    tainable forest management. The results from this study will hopefully provide guidance

    for decision-makers as well as other researchers regarding the integrated role of remote

    sensing and community forestry in relation to sustainable forest management.

    2 Study area

    Cambodia has a population of about 13.4 million, of which 81 % lives in rural areas (NIS

    2008). Cambodias population has increased by 1.95 million with an annual growth rate of

    1.5 % during the last decade (Ra et al. 2011). Most of the rural population lives in

    traditional wooden houses and depends on agriculture and forestry resources. In 2008, the

    forestry sector contributed about 7 % to GDP (Chao 2009). Fuel wood, foods, traditional

    medicines, rattan, resins, and construction materials are the main products to the local

    people. Forests also provide food security, employment, health maintenance, and house-

    hold income to the local people (McKenney and Tola 2002). Hansen and Top (2006)

    reported that urban households mainly use wood as cooking fuel, while rural households

    utilize forests products for a diverse range of consumption and income-generation. Forests

    products provide nearly half of the household income in rural areas (McKenney et al.

    2004). These findings demonstrate that forest products play a critical role in supporting

    rural livelihoods in Cambodia.

    During the last decade, rapid population growth and economic development have placed

    the countrys forests under huge pressure. The major causes of deforestation in Cambodia

    are illegal logging, forestland conversion, heavy reliance on fuel wood for energy, lack of

    transparency in concession systems, and unsustainable harvesting by concessionaires, poor

    management, corruption, and land grabs (Wingqvist 2009). In addition, Economic Land

    Concessions and insecure land tenure are also among the major drivers of deforestation in

    the country (Fox et al. 2008; Poffenberger 2009; Van Beukering 2009; UNEP 2009).

    Economic land concession covers about 8.8 % of total forest area; however, community

    forestry area covers only 3 % of Cambodias total forest area. For sustainable management

    of forest resources, the Cambodian government should promote community forestry pro-

    grammes on a large scale.

    3 Discussion

    3.1 Forest management strategies and carbon sequestration

    Management of forest resources is a crucial factor to mitigate the effects of climate change.

    According to Bravo et al. (2008), forest management is possible by a number of strategies,

    including (1) conservation and maintenance of existing forest carbon stocks, (2) increasing

    carbon stocks through afforestation and reforestation, (3) modification of the forest species

    composition and tree size distributions, (4) promoting the planting of more resilient tree

    genotypes, (5) planting trees to stabilize soils and to reduce the expected impacts of rainfall

    and temperature changes, and (6) regular thinning to restore forest and accelerate carbon

    sequestration (Dwyer et al. 2010).

    Fire protection, pest control, increasing rotation time, tree density regulation, nutritional

    state improvements, and residue management are the other various types of management

    options that may increase the forest carbon stock as well as the ecosystem services forests

    Role of remote sensing 1595

    123

  • provide (Bravo et al. 2008). Forest age can give information about rotation length because

    at an old age, forest carbon sequestration decreases slightly. Therefore, knowledge of

    appropriate rotation period is needed for the natural regeneration of young plant canopies

    (Paul et al. 2002). Logging activities have a direct impact on forest ecosystem because it

    causes damage to the remaining forest during felling, skidding, or the transportation of

    harvested wood (Laporte-Bisquit 2011). Application of reduced impact logging techniques

    focused on selective logging can minimize forest damage. Purtz et al. (2008) reported that

    the implementation of reduced impact logging techniques can prevent 50 % or more of

    forest damage. Selective logging techniques cause less damage and increases chances of

    natural regeneration in forests as compared to conventional logging (Pinard and Putz

    1996). Hence, the selection of suitable sites for selective logging is very crucial to maintain

    high biomass and ecosystem balance in the forest ecosystem. Reforestation and effective

    conservation of forest area could lead to carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation

    (Nabuurs et al. 2007). Promotion of natural regeneration in disturbed forests is also a

    simple and low-cost forest restoration method (Shono et al. 2007).

    Collection of basic information about forests parameters is necessary in order to

    implement forest management practices. Information about forest cover, deforestation,

    degradation, and forest biomass is required for making appropriate sustainable forest

    management plans. This information could be generated using remote sensing techniques

    at national level as well as forest inventory data at local level. Satellite data are useful to

    monitor forests periodically at the national level, and the role of community people is

    important to collect forest inventory parameters at the local level.

    3.2 Use of remote sensing techniques to monitor forests

    Remote sensing techniques have played a crucial role to study forest cover, deforestation,

    and forest biomass on a spatiotemporal scale (Macauley et al. 2009). Development of

    remote sensing techniques with the application of optical, synthetic aperture radar (SAR)

    and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) techniques have made mapping of forest

    parameters cost- and time-effective with significant accuracy. Most of the present moni-

    toring systems are based on optical and SAR data. Satellite data can provide time-series

    data which can be useful to monitor historic forest cover and its change. This information

    can be used to establish a baseline that is required for the REDD? mechanism imple-

    mentation to calculate the carbon credits based on changes in forest carbon stocks. Dif-

    ferent types of remote sensing data have different potential and limitations. To overcome

    the limitations of remote sensing data, we need a synergistic approach. Using multisensor

    data in synergy with different spectral, spatial, and temporal resolution can resolve issues

    of clouds in tropical region, seasonality, and limited coverage (Sy et al. 2012). Remote

    sensing techniques are useful to study forest environmental conditions (topography, slope,

    soil type, soil moisture, etc.) and zoning of forests under various environmental conditions.

    Forest environment condition maps can be used to make appropriate forest management

    practices, for example, forests located on a mountainous area with good supplies of water

    have less human-induced logging and such sites should be rich of forest carbon and

    biodiversity. Remote sensing can also provide information about dense, sparse, young, and

    old types of forests. Lal and Singh (2000) have noticed high carbon sequestration rates in

    young forests and lower carbon sequestration rates in older forests. Therefore, information

    about forest density and age supplied by remote sensing can be used for regular thinning to

    maintain high carbon stocks in forests.

    1596 R. Avtar et al.

    123

  • Updated information about forest cover, deforestation, and forest biomass can be used

    to identify the deforested sites and prediction of deforestation drivers. Figure 1 shows the

    updated forest cover map of Cambodia based on the prediction of deforested sites using

    PALSAR (Phased Array L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar) and Landsat data. National-

    level biomass map of Cambodia (Fig. 2) has been generated based on PALSAR 50 m

    mosaic data. It shows saturation at around 150200 Mg/ha of biomass because of the

    saturation of PALSAR backscattering properties (Avtar et al. 2011b). However, this bio-

    mass map can provide information about high-, medium- and low-density biomass and can

    be used by foresters to minimize illegal logging in the high biomass region by increasing

    the patrolling near high biomass forests areas. The forests with low biomass can be used as

    reforestation sites to increase the biomass. Selection of degraded and unproductive land

    using remote sensing techniques can be used for afforestation to increase the forest cover.

    Geographical Information System techniques could also be used for the selection of sites

    for reforestation, afforestation, agriculture expansion, and community forestry projects

    based on updated information about forest cover, deforestation, and forest biomass.

    Measurement of forest biomass using remote sensing techniques has some limitations;

    therefore, recent studies (Skutsch 2010; Danielsen et al. 2011; Fry 2011; Pratihast and

    Herold 2011) have suggested that the involvement of community people could help to

    overcome these limitations. Table 1 shows the comparison of remote sensing with com-

    munity-based monitoring of forests. It shows that community-based monitoring can pro-

    vide more parameters with high accuracy, but large and remote areas cannot be covered by

    community-based monitoring. However, remote sensing can provide reliable information

    for large scale and remote areas.

    Fig. 1 Updated forest cover map of Cambodia (year 2009)

    Role of remote sensing 1597

    123

  • 3.3 Role of community forestry to monitor forests

    Community-based forest monitoring and conservation has been proposed as an additional

    and effective way to overcome limitations of remote sensing and increase the reliability of

    forest monitoring in a cost-effective way (Danielsen et al. 2011; Pratihast and Herold 2011;

    Fry 2011; Larrazabal and Skutch 2011). The involvement of community people to monitor

    forest is one of the important ways in which they can take on responsibilities for REDD?.

    Community-based forest monitoring can be advantageous because: (1) local communities

    have in-depth knowledge of the local forest and forest species, (2) local communities have

    easy access to their surrounding forest environment and can make regular field visits,

    (3) local communities have information about probable causes of deforestation and forest

    degradation so they can minimize them, (4) local communities can patrol the forest to

    protect the forest from illegal loggers, (5) active involvement of communities can promote

    long-term forest sustainability, and (6) local communities can verify the remote sensing-

    based estimates (Pratihast and Herold 2011). Therefore, success of REDD? depends on the

    awareness and active participation of the local people to mitigate climate change through

    forest conservation. Larrazabal and Skutch 2011 explored the various pros and cons of

    community forestry monitoring.

    Previous studies found that the promotion of community forestry projects will improve

    the livelihood of indigenous people as well as poverty alleviation. A study by Bray et al.

    (2008) showed that community forestry might generate more income for local people than

    protected areas. In Cambodia, most of the community forestry project sites are focused on

    degraded forests (Poffenberger 2006). Hence, these community projects can help in forest

    restoration to enhance the quality of the forests.

    Skutch et al. (2010) has compared the cost of community-based forest carbon stock

    monitoring and expert-based monitoring. Their results showed that expert-based

    Fig. 2 Aboveground biomass map of Cambodia overlaid with forest protection types

    1598 R. Avtar et al.

    123

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  • monitoring costs 23 times more than community-based monitoring. Expert-based

    monitoring is more costly because of the higher expenditure for air travel, local travel,

    logistics, and expert salaries (Balmford et al. 2003). Fry (2011) has also noticed that

    community-based monitoring is feasible, reliable, and cheaper than expert-based moni-

    toring. Therefore, community people should also be exposed to hands-on training of dif-

    ferent instruments such as Global positioning system, DBH tape, Hypsometer, Personal

    Digital Assistant, compass, etc., to measure forest biophysical parameters accurately so the

    data will be useful for the REDD? MRV system for forest-related emissions reductions.

    In a nutshell, we can say that remote sensing techniques are the main tools at the

    national-level monitoring of forests. However, local-level community data can also be an

    additional input to monitor forests. Thus, an integrated approach to link the national-level

    forest information by remote sensing- and local community-based monitoring would be a

    winwin situation. Operational use of this integrated approach of remote sensing- and

    community-based monitoring needs capacity building of local people (Herold and Skutsch

    2011). Seminars, workshops, and short/long-term training courses for capacity building are

    necessary to improve the capability of community people as well as the government level

    staff in order to implement sustainable forest management plans. Information about forest

    cover, topography, roads, canals, aerial photograph, satellite data, forest biomass map, etc.,

    can enable foresters and community people to coordinate forest management plans. This

    information can also be used to develop national strategies for forest management plans.

    4 Conclusion

    Forest resources are of great importance and of immense value to mankind in the present

    and in the future. They are being degraded at an alarming rate by various activities.

    Periodical monitoring of forest resources are important for better management plans.

    Satellite data provide valuable information useful in assessment, monitoring, and man-

    agement of forest ecosystems. This paper demonstrated the use of updated forest cover,

    deforestation, and forest biomass information for making an effective sustainable forest

    management plan. An integrated approach of remote sensing- and community-based

    monitoring can be a vital data source for REDD? mechanism implementation. This

    approach will also be useful for making national level-forests management plans and

    policies.

    Acknowledgments The authors are highly thankful to the Monbukagakusho (MEXT) Japanese Govern-ment Fellowship to pursue the research at The University of Tokyo, Japan. We would also like to thank theForestry Administration (FA), Cambodia, for their cooperation during the field data collection.

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    Role of remote sensing and community forestry to manage forests for the effective implementation of REDD+ mechanism: a case study on CambodiaAbstractIntroductionStudy areaDiscussionForest management strategies and carbon sequestrationUse of remote sensing techniques to monitor forestsRole of community forestry to monitor forests

    ConclusionAcknowledgmentsReferences