Long-term deforestation trends can emerge as an accumulation of random short-term forest clearing events
To improve the accuracy of projecting deforestation in the arc of deforestation in Colombia, Permian Global has found that longer historical analysis is needed.
The study found that deforestation in the areas studied was highly random, which meant accurately projecting forest loss over short periods of time is challenging. However, while the events of deforestation were random, there are distinct patterns of interannual increases when analysed over longer historical periods.
The findings show that for optimal baselines for REDD+ initiatives in the region, a historical reference period of at least 10 years is recommended and that shorter reference periods risk resulting in inaccurate baselines.
Dr Leonardo Sáenz, a Technical Officer at Permian Global and one of the lead authors of the paper, said: “Protecting tropical forest requires the most scientifically accurate understanding of the causes and patterns of deforestation. Our study has shown that, specifically in the region that was analysed, the irregular nature of deforestation means we cannot rely on short-term historical reference periods to construct accurate baselines. Instead, we need to take a longer view to avoid over- or underestimating the true pattern of deforestation in a region.”
“Although, the purpose of the paper is not to extrapolate general conclusions across the tropics from these sites in Colombia, where deforestation has been going up over this time period, we recommend that this type of the analysis should be replicated in all tropical forest basins, by the most robust standards, to better inform the setting of historical reference periods, and thus deforestation baselines.”
Forest protection projects use baselines to demonstrate what would have happened to an area if no conservation action was taken. To accurately predict the likely outcome for an area, project developers must assess a wide range of data, including using historical reference periods to show how deforestation has occurred in the region over time.
The paper was independently reviewed by Dr. Jonah Busch, who is a Climate Economics Fellow at Conservation International, with a focus on climate change and tropical deforestation; and René Zamora-Cristales, who is a Senior Manager Restoration Policy & Forest Economist at the World Resources Institute.
Permian Global is a tropical forest project developer that has conservation activity in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The projects are designed based on the most current understandings of forest carbon science and social development and are independently audited against the internationally recognised voluntary carbon standards by Verra. Project activities are financed by the generation of high quality verified carbon credits.
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