Friday, January 23, 2015

Indigenous people measure carbon that satellites miss

Bjorn Carey in Futurity via Stanford University: Indigenous people govern about half of all remaining undeveloped land on the planet. New research with indigenous people in the Amazon suggests they may outperform satellites in measuring the true carbon storage potential of the rainforest. That finding could influence how indigenous people in Guyana and elsewhere manage their forests and may lead to greater opportunities for these communities to engage in carbon offset programs.

The project, described in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, grew out of efforts to engage indigenous peoples to gain better understanding of ecosystems that have been relatively undisturbed by modern civilization. ...“The people know the trails really well, and some of them will walk two days to get to their plot and make measurements,” Fragoso says. “They can make really good measurements in really isolated areas, where government workers would never get to. Generally, professional scientists will not travel these distances on foot to verify carbon estimates.”

While satellite observations would most likely identify each of these plots as “forest” and assigned them a standardized value for carbon storage, the field workers identified 11 habitat types with trees, each of which requires a different set of calculations for determining its carbon storage potential. Because they could be more specific about the biomass of each vegetation type making up a plot, they were able to calculate that forests in Guyana contain 20 to 40 percent more carbon than previously estimated.

...These areas probably play a much larger role in the global climate than previously assumed, Fragoso says, and indigenous people need to be better represented at global climate talks. These land-owners have more carbon storage at their disposal to sell as carbon credits to governments and corporations looking to offset their greenhouse gas-producing activities.

...This is the first model for turning indigenous people into field researchers capable of producing scientifically rigorous calculations for carbon, says Fragoso, who is now planning to share the concept with other indigenous nations around the world.

Rainforest in Guyana, shot by Loriski, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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