Accounting for Emissions from Degradation

Under the Kyoto Protocol forests are defined as lands with more than 10 to 30 percent crown cover (UNFCCC, 2001). Carbon pools will thus consist of forests with 100 percent tree canopy down to 10 percent tree canopy. The degradation of a forest through selective logging, shifting agriculture or livestock grazing, seriously undermining its carbon content, may escape detection by remote sensing technologies (DeFries et al., 2007). Emissions from land-use conversions were estimated to be 25 percent greater in the Amazon when forest degradation is included (Asner et al., 2005). Carbon loss within forests could in fact exceed the conversion of forest to non-forest. It is therefore imperative that carbon loss caused by degradation within forests is accounted for as well as that from the conversion of forests. Published data for the non-intact class of forests is unavailable, yet carbon stocks need to be estimated before the start of the accounting period.

An operational method to deal with forest degradation is proposed by Mollicone et al. (2007). The distinction is made between intact and non-intact forests, thus avoiding the introduction of a definition of forest degradation that has not been achieved. Using remote sensing, intact forest is discriminated from non-intact forest by the presence of human interference such as roads and fragmentation. Forest conversion is defined as:

1. from intact forest to other land use;

2. non-intact forest to other land use;

3. intact forest to non-intact forests.

The Mollicone et al. (2007) proposal defines avoided deforestation as the difference between the sum of the preserved forest carbon stocks arising from the three processes above and the agreed national or global baseline. Once the areas of three categories have been determined, their carbon stocks are determined by reference to the literature for the particular forest type, for example humid tropical, dry tropical, and so on. In the absence of data for non-intact forests the carbon stock of non-intact forests is set at half that of intact forests.

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