A National Forest Carbon Map for the DRC
Deforestation and degradation produce about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Africa, where more than 60% of Congo Basin forests are found in DRC, the success of the international initiative known as REDD+ (Reducing of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is essential to supporting efforts to reduce global climate change.
The evaluation and assessment of national carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation require precise and detailed estimations of the carbon stock contained in forest vegetation at the national scale, while considering the differences in all types of forest. Until now, the available carbon datasets for the DRC did not have sufficient accuracy or detailed resolution to realistically and accurately assess carbon stock for calculating potential emissions reductions.
For this reason, the Ministry of Environment of the DRC – represented by the Direction de Développement Durable et du Département des Inventaires et Aménagement Forestier (DIAF), and WWF, along with the support of its partners, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Southern Mapping Company (SMC) and l'Observatoire Satellital des Forêts d'Afrique Centrale (OSFAC) launched the Carbon Map & Model (CM&M) project in 2012.
This national map effectively estimates the carbon stock stored in every hectare of DRC’s forests, supporting national efforts to monitor forest cover and facilitate the assessment of carbon emissions from deforestation, in order to receive eventual payments from REDD+.
The mapping component of the project employed a method developed by Dr. Sassan Saatchi of UCLA, which comprises a stratified random sampling approach for collecting airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data, selected for its high precision estimates of above-ground forest structure, as well as cost-effectiveness for collecting detailed data in vast, remote and inaccessible regions of the DRC.
This technique has allowed a quantitative evaluation of forest carbon stock in all forest areas, particularly those of the province of Mai-Ndombe, where the first emissions reduction program in Africa was established. This program will contribute to efforts to fight climate change, while reducing poverty through sustainable development activities.
LiDAR is a remote sensing tool which uses laser light similar to a radar system. It determines very high precision distances from the sensor and accurate positions of forest structure elements in three dimensions. This instrument was mounted on an airplane from Southern Mapping Company, who produced the raw data for the biomass assessment.
The airborne data collection campaign was executed between June 2014 and February 2015. The collection included 216 plots totalling more than 430,000 hectares of LiDAR measurements. Additionally, ferry data collected in between plots increase the data extent to 580,000 ha. Upon this data collection, the DRC now possesses a comprehensive dataset available for a number of other research activities.
The forest inventory data were compiled from many partners and stakeholders, including the DIAF. Through this collaborative effort, the DRC has become the first African nation to possess a national biomass map of this accuracy, developed from LIDAR observations. This experience will serve as an example for other Congo Basin nations who wish to establish baselines and reference levels to reinforce their deforestation monitoring activities.
Bruno Perodeau, Conservation Director of WWF-DRC stated, “this new national biomass map is a significant step for the DRC. It will fill important knowledge gaps on the second largest tropical forest in the world, including its potential role in mitigating global climate change. The development of these maps is remarkable in terms of its innovative method and precision. The results of this project will hopefully enable robust scientific monitoring, reporting and verification systems for performance payments for populations involved in REDD+.”
This map is valuable at many levels: local, provincial, national and international. It allows a new understanding of forest carbon stock in the country and also significant Congo Basin forest types, and can be used as a baseline for other activities, including conservation planning, and new land use planning projects which have been recently launched. It will also support the current efforts towards numerous REDD+, initiatives implemented by the government of DRC since 2009, while facilitating the investments into jurisdictional activities in support of national emissions reductions.
The national forest carbon map is a living map which can be updated and improved by integrating new data and information, for example, data from the national forest inventory, as well as data on wood density and national allometric equations so that the DRC can continue to improve the precision of its data through innovative methods to support good forest management.
For more information contact:
Dandy Yela, Communications Manager WWF RDC
Tel: +243 999964899