A framework for estimating forest disturbance intensity from successive remotely sensed biomass maps: moving beyond average biomass loss estimates
Carbon Balance and Management
© 2015 Hill et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Background The success of satellites in mapping deforestation has been invaluable for improving our understanding of the impacts and nature of land cover change and carbon balance. However, current satellite approaches struggle to quantify the intensity of forest disturbance, i.e. whether the average rate of biomass loss for a region arises from heavy disturbance focused in a few locations, or the less severe disturbance of a wider area. The ability to distinguish between these, very different, disturbance regimes remains critical for forest managers and ecologists. Results We put forward a framework for describing all intensities of forest disturbance, from deforestation, to widespread low intensity disturbance. By grouping satellite observations into ensembles with a common disturbance regime, the framework is able to mitigate the impacts of poor signal-to-noise ratio that limits current satellite observations. Using an observation system simulation experiment we demonstrate that the framework can be applied to provide estimates of the mean biomass loss rate, as well as distinguish the intensity of the disturbance. The approach is robust despite the large random and systematic errors typical of biomass maps derived from radar. The best accuracies are achieved with ensembles of ≥1600 pixels (≥1 km 2 with 25 by 25 m pixels). Summary The framework we describe provides a novel way to describe and quantify the intensity of forest disturbance, which could help to provide information on the causes of both natural and anthropogenic forest loss—such information is vital for effective forest and climate policy formulation.
NERC National Centre for Earth Observation
NERC CarbonFusion project
Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative
EU Framework 7 I-REDD + project
This is a freely-available open access publication. Please cite the published version which is available via the DOI link in this record.
Carbon Balance and Management, 2015, 10:27