Spatial + Temporal Scope [MGD Sections]

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Forest Definition [MGD Sections]

Carbon Pools [MGD Sections]

2.3.2   Land cover, land use and stratification Previous topic Parent topic Child topic Next topic

Although the terms land cover and land use may be used interchangeably they are not synonymous. Land cover can change temporarily without change in land use – e.g. tree cover may be temporarily removed but land remains in forest land use if replanting or other regeneration follows.
The GPG2003 ask that the land of a country be reported using the six land use categories previously identified in Table 3, namely Forest Land, Croplands, Grasslands, Wetlands Settlements and Other Land. In general reporting against the six IPCC land use categories and changes between them cannot be achieved on the basis of remote sensing observations alone but also requires rules for attribution based on spatially explicit location and auxiliary data (Table 6; Chapter 4, Section 4.2.3) e.g. climate, ecosystem, management type, accessibility and time-series analysis (Box 7), to distinguish for example whether forest cover loss is due to deforestation (change in land use) or is temporary (no change in land use because tree forest is expected to be replanted of regenerate). This can lead to nationally specific stratification schemes which are then categorized into the IPCC classes according to national definitions.
Attribution is the process of associating observed land-cover changes with underlying causes of disturbance. Knowledge of the cause of disturbance is needed for the estimating GHG emissions and removals because different disturbance types have different impacts on carbon stocks (Kurz et al., 2009).

Table 6: Examples of auxiliary data and possible assumptions that can help with classifying land use

Data
Source
Possible assumption
Forest management plans
Forest agencies, stakeholders
That plans are implemented
Maps of plantation establishment
Forest agencies, private sector
Plantation species will be established.
Species (or natural/plantation splits)
Remote sensing (either the same or other sensors as used for the time series)
Plantation species will be established.
Natural species will have been cleared for other uses
Fire maps
Remote sensing
Land management agencies
Change that occurs at the same time as fire is a fire
National parks and protected areas
Land management agencies
Changes are natural, unless otherwise noted
Climate or soils types
Resource agencies, meteorological agencies
Determine the types of crops and management that can occur in certain regions (e.g. no crops in a desert)
Stratification is important for several reasons. It can
  • in the use of resources in preparing emissions and removals estimates
  • assist in the management of uncertainties
  • allow greater flexibility in reporting of monitored data (for example effectiveness of policies tailored to specific strata (forest types, risk types))
  • enable tailoring of specific methods or data collection processes in different strata (for example it is much more difficult to measure deforestation using traditional optical methods in fragmented dryland forests than contiguous moist tropical forests).
Where relevant, stratification can be undertaken to distinguish between managed and unmanaged land in the various categories to meet the requirement of including only anthropogenic emissions and removals using the managed land proxy(1). While this approach to separating natural and anthropogenic emissions and removals is a proxy, it is the only generally practicable approach. Settlements and cropland are by definition managed, and it may be that all land in other categories can be considered as managed.
Stratification does not necessarily entail the use of maps, although usually(2) spatially explicit data (e.g. georeferenced NFI plots) are used. It may be on the basis of ground data or remotely-sensed data, or both in combination. Strata need to be sufficiently distinct to be identifiable and the boundaries of strata can change over time e.g. if the frontier of disturbance moves into areas of previously undisturbed forest. Information such as stocking densities (e.g. volume, biomass or carbon) and specialized map layers such as soils, site class, topography, aspect, dominant tree species or species clusters are commonly used for stratification. Examples of the stratification process can be found in McRoberts et al., 2002 and Olofsson et al., 2013.
Estimation of forest degradation, and the 'plus' activities of REDD+(3) may require finer resolution data (both spatially and temporally) than are being used currently by countries. Development of national capacity will help take advantage of technical developments as they become available(4). For forest degradation auxiliary information on harvesting, whether legal or not, and other disturbances will help considerably.
Likelihood of human disturbance can also be the basis for stratification. Identification of areas at high risk of deforestation can assist in designing early warning and targeted monitoring processes. Data sources and tools are available to assist in this process (Chapter 4, Section 4.2.3). Box 20 and Chapter 5, Section 5.1 provide more information on stratification.

Box 7: Plantation management in Kenya

In Kenya the standard plantation management practice following harvest is to put crops on the land for 1-2 years before replanting. In this case the remote sensing program will correctly see that the cover has changed from forest to crop. The attribution process notes that this is a human induced change in cover (due to the harvest). However, it is noted that the harvest occurred in a plantation (determined through knowledge of the species and stand maps from the Forest Information system). The policy and reporting rule set by the Government of Kenya is that the short crop cycle is part of plantation management. Consequently the land use does not change, (that is, it remains forestland) and all emissions associated with the harvest and removals from subsequent replanting reported under forestland. However, there is also the chance that the land will have been cleared and will not be returned to trees. If the land cover does not return for forest within a specified number of years, then a land use change is considered to have occurred at the time of harvest and the land areas are updated accordingly in the next report.

 (1)
 (2)
Stratification is possible without spatially explicit data, e.g. based on frequencies of occurrences of various classes and guided by expert judgement and credible assumptions.
 (3)
Namely conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
 (4)
E.g. it is currently challenging to detect changes in canopy cover associated with degradation. In October 2013 GFOI and GOFC-GOLD held a workshop and published a report on technical developments in monitoring degradation Opens in new window.