ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND POLICY FORMATION RELATED TO MONITORING SUB-SAHARAN FOREST DEGRADATION
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Unit of AssessmentEarth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Ecological Applications, Environmental Science and Management
Biological Sciences: Ecology
Summary of the impact
Impacts: I) Economic benefits derived from carbon credit and
land-use schemes in sub-Saharan Africa. II) Multi-national developments in
public-policy related to Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Forest
Degradation (REDD). III) Recommendation for launch by the European Space
Agency (March 2013) of the first ever forest-specific monitoring mission.
Significance and reach: Public policy developments have occurred
over the period 2011 - June 2013 in Malawi, Mozambique and Gabon.
Increases of more than 20% in the level of rural employment pre and post
2008 have been documented for one project in Mozambique.
Underpinned by: Research into quantifying tropical forest biomass
stocks and their degradation, undertaken at the University of Edinburgh
Numbered references refer to research outputs in Section 3.
The start and end dates of continuous employment in the School of
GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, are shown along with the most recent
/ current position of each researcher.
Williams, Chair of Global Change Ecology (2000 onwards)
Grace, Professor (1970 - 2010; 2013 onwards)
Mencuccini, Professor of Forest Science (1997 onwards)
Woodhouse, Professor of Applied Earth Observation (1999 onwards)
Ryan, Lecturer (2009 onwards)
Mitchard, PhD student (2007-11) and NERC Fellow (2011 onwards)
Research overview and context
Forest degradation is recognised as a significant but poorly determined
component of the global carbon cycle, such that without accurate mapping
of degradation actions to preserve forest biomass (e.g. U.N. Reducing
Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD) are
inhibited. Through extensive forest plot networks and linked
remote-sensing observations, research by the Edinburgh group
(2004-present) has better quantified carbon stocks in a range of African
environments, notably miombo woodlands and mangroves, which has led to
production of the first digital maps of forest degradation with
Key research findings that underpin the subsequent impact
In 2004, Grace, Williams and Ryan initiated a series of Permanent Sample
Plots (PSP) in Mozambique to monitor biodiversity, forest structure and
biomass, and soil carbon stocks . Further plots were then
established in Kenya (2007, Mencuccini) and Tanzania (2011, Williams,
Ryan). These plot networks constitute the longest running and most
extensive within the 2.7 M km2 of southern African miombo
woodland / mangroves. Experimental fire research on the vulnerability of
stems in the miombo has been linked to a forest gap model, in order to
characterise fire effects on biomass dynamics. Results from Mozambique,
published in 2011, indicate that fire is a major driver of biomass loss in
woodlands and that fire management to reduce intensity and likelihood of
loss of large stems is a potentially viable method to enhance carbon
stocks . Field campaigns led by Mitchard between 2007-2012 in
tropical forests in Cameroon, Uganda and Gabon set up and re-measured PSPs
(including a plot in Uganda first measured in 1932), which revealed
significant changes in vegetation structure. In 2009 Mitchard published
the first study comparing radar backscatter-biomass relationships across
multiple sites in the tropics, showing significant similarity in the fit
across four different forest-savanna boundary and woodland sites .
Mitchard also played a key role in a subsequent NASA-led study that
produced a pan-tropical biomass map at an unprecedented 1 km resolution .
Work published by Ryan and the Edinburgh team in 2012 showed how radar
data allows landscapes to be characterised for forest degradation .
Research involving Mencuccini has extended these techniques into mangrove
ecosystems, which are notoriously difficult to restore after degradation,
with a 2010 publication showing the positive impact of species diversity
on mangrove ecosystem recovery following deforestation .
References to the research
Comments in bold on individual outputs give information on the quality of
the underpinning research and may include the number of citations (Scopus,
up to September 2013) and/or the 2012 Thomson Reuters Journal Impact
Factor (JIF). The starred outputs best indicate this quality.
* Peer-reviewed journal article, 40 citations, JIF: 2.8
Williams M., Ryan, C. M., Rees, R. M., Sambane, E., Fernando, J., and
Grace, J. (2008) `Carbon sequestration and biodiversity of re-growing
miombo woodlands in Mozambique', Forest Ecology and Management
254, 145-55, DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2007.07.033
 Peer-reviewed journal article, >10 citations, JIF: 5.1
Ryan, C.M., and Williams, M. (2011) `How does fire intensity and frequency
affect miombo woodland tree populations and biomass?', Ecological
Applications 21, 48-60, DOI: 10.1890/09-1489.1
* Peer-reviewed journal article, >30 citations, JIF: 4.0
Mitchard, E. T. A., Saatchi, S. S., Woodhouse, I. H., Nangendo, G.,
Ribeiro, N. S., Williams, M., Ryan, C. M., Lewis, S. L., Feldpausch, T.
R., and Meir, P. (2009) `Using satellite radar backscatter to predict
above-ground woody biomass: A consistent relationship across four
different African landscapes', Geophysical Research Letters 36,
L23401, DOI: 10.1029/2009GL040692
 Peer-reviewed journal article by a NASA team with Mitchard,
>100 citations, JIF: 9.7
Saatchi, S. S., Harris, N. L., Brown, S., Lefsky, M., Mitchard, E. T. A. ,
Salas, W., Zutta, B. R., Buermann, W., Lewis, S. L., Hagen, S., Petrova,
S., White, L., Silman, M., and Morel, A. (2011) `Benchmark map of forest
carbon stocks in tropical regions across three continents', Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences 10, DOI: 1073/pnas.1019576108
* Peer-reviewed journal article, >10 citations in one year, JIF:
Ryan, C. M., Hill, T. C., Woollen, E., Ghee, C., Mitchard, E. T. A.,
Cassells, G., Grace, J., Woodhouse, I. H., and Williams, M. (2012)
`Quantifying small-scale deforestation and forest degradation in African
woodlands using radar imagery', Global Change Biology 18, 243-57,
 Peer-reviewed journal article, >10 citations, JIF: 2.9
Huxham, M., Kumaral, M., Jayatissa, L. P., Krauss, K. W., Kairo, J. G.,
Langat, J., Mencuccini, M., Skov, M. and Kirui, B. (2010) `Intra and
inter-specific facilitation in mangroves may increase resilience to
climate change threats', Proc. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B
365, 2127-35, DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0094
A further metric of research quality is given by the peer-reviewed grants
that have contributed to the preceding outputs, which include:
National Centre for Earth Observation, Carbon Theme
(2008-2013), sponsor: NERC, value: £400k, awarded to Williams.
GEOCARBON - Operational Carbon Observing System (2011-2014),
sponsor: EU FP7, value: €240k, awarded to Williams.
BIOMASS Level 2 Product to Flux (2010-2011), sponsor: European
Space Agency, value: €100k, awarded to Williams.
Details of the impact
Lettered references relate to corroboration sources in Section 5.
Economic benefits derived from carbon credit and land-use schemes
Pathway: The research team has been actively involved in advisory
work with carbon and land-use certification schemes, as well as developing
tailored research outputs for a range of end-user organisations. Ryan and
Mitchard have advised, reviewed, and redrafted a land-use standard for the
technical committee of the UK `Plan Vivo Foundation' [A]. The work
on fire in miombo woodlands has resulted in a Tanzanian partnership with
the NGO Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) and LTS
International to develop a new Voluntary Carbon Standard for fire-prone
tropical woodlands [B]. Research on the impacts of timber
harvesting on Kenyan mangroves was instrumental in developing a new carbon
offset payment scheme, launched in 2011 with funding from Aviva, as can be
corroborated by their Head of Environment and Climate Change [C].
Finally, Mitchard has generated specific biomass and deforestation rate
models for several African REDD projects over the period 2008 - July 2013.
Significance and reach:
- One of the development projects that uses the Plan Vivo standard to
sell carbon credits, the Sofala community in Mozambique, occupied 1,500
farms and 100 km2 of forest as of 2009 and has led to
voluntary carbon market credit sales worth $1.3M over the period 2003 -
2009. Additional benefits include increases in rural employment and the
fraction of households raising commercial crops (32% and 72%
respectively in 2008, up from values of 8% and 23% when previously
audited in 2004). All of these statistics are sourced from a 2010
Case-Report in the journal Carbon Management [D].
- One of the projects for which Mitchard supplied biomass and
deforestation data, the RSPB Gola Forest Project in Sierra Leone (data
supplied in 2011), covers over 71,000 ha.
Formation of land-use / management policy
Pathway: Governments, NGOs and companies have made extensive
direct use of the research outputs in developing land-use policies and
strategies. Other pathways include: I) a sabbatical year (2010 - 2011) by
Woodhouse that provided capacity building training in remote sensing
techniques within the Governmental Forest Research Institute (GFRI) of
Malawi, as corroborated by senior forestry research officials [E],
and II) Mitchard being an official member of Gabon's delegation to the
COP15 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting.
Significance and reach:
- A workshop and conference based on the research at the GFRI of Malawi
(June 2011) led to a Policy Briefing to the Malawi Director of Forestry
- The research is cited in the following policy-relevant NGO reports: I)
the 2010 International Institute for Environment and Development report
on REDD in southern African woodlands [G] and II) the
Observatory for the Forests of Central Africa report on The Forests
of the Congo Basin • State of the Forest 2008.
- The Government of Mozambique uses the Edinburgh research as evidence
in 2012 planning documents related to preparation of REDD strategies [H].
- The biomass mapping informed the Gabonese Government in its policies
and publications at COP meetings 2009 - 2011 and the countries land-use
plan for 2013.
- In 2009, the research underpinned a POSTNote briefing for UK
parliamentarians on the needs of African nations in REDD, the drivers of
deforestation and possible solutions [I].
Approval of the BIOMASS satellite mission
Pathway, significance and reach: Building on the radar derived
research, the Edinburgh group have been key players in developing the
BIOMASS satellite proposal (estimation of biomass stocks from space has
only been possible at the coarsest levels), through the European Space
Agency (ESA). In March 2013, ESA recommended BIOMASS for development and
launch as one of three Earth Explorer missions. The influence of the
Edinburgh research in this decision is corroborated in the Report for
Selection [J]. This is the first ever forest-specific monitoring
mission, with a preliminary budget of €420M that will include large
investments in satellite technologies.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Where two web-links are given, the first is the primary source and the
second an archived version.
[A] List of members of Plan Vivo Technical Advisory Group (May 2010)
Provides evidence of the research-led expertise of Ryan and Mitchard
contributing to the development of professional practice.
[B] International Co-ordinator for the Mpingo Conservation and
Can corroborate the role of Ryan and Williams
in the Tanzanian partnership with MCDI and LTS International to develop a
new Voluntary Carbon Standard for fire-prone tropical woodlands following
the work on fire in miombo woodlands.
[C] Head of Environment & Climate Change at Aviva PLC
corroborate the funding by Aviva of the Kenyan offsetting scheme.
[D] Carbon Management Case Report article on
the Sofala project, Mozambique (2010)
Grace J., Ryan C. M., Williams
M., Powell P., Goodman L. and Tipper R., (2010) `A pilot project to store
carbon as biomass in African Woodlands', Carbon Management 1(2),
227-235, DOI: 10.4155/CMT.10.22, http://tinyurl.com/B7-5-S5-D
Provides evidence of the quoted scope, credit sales and employment
statistics for the Sofala project and the role of the Plan Vivo system.
[E] Senior Forestry Research Officer, Forest Research Institute of
Can provide corroboration of the research-led training and
capacity building delivered by Woodhouse and the influence of the
Edinburgh research on the June 2011 Workshop.
[F] Documents from the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG), Malawi
I) FGLG Narrative Report 2011 http://tinyurl.com/B7-5-S5-XFA
Provide evidences of the June 2011 workshop and the policy briefing paper
produced (Pages 10-11) and the briefing of members of the Department of
Forestry, achieved through II) Malawi Policy Brief No. 4. "Channelling
REDD+ finance toward sustainable rural livelihoods in Malawi" (July 2011)
[G] 2010 report by the International Institute for Environment and
REDD+ in dryland forests: Issues and
prospects for pro-poor REDD in the miombo woodands of southern Africa,
Bond, I. et al., (2010), Natural Resource Issues No. 21, IIED, London, http://tinyurl.com/B7-5-S5-XG
Provides evidence of the use of the Mozambique case study (Page 26) and
other Edinburgh research (Pages 7, 76-80) in an international NGO report
designed to influence environmental and development policy.
[H] Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) for REDD, Government of
Provides evidence of citation of research output , Section 3 (Page 129)
and other aspects of the Edinburgh research (Page 60,68,122,133) in the
Gov. of Mozambique's REDD strategy preparation.
[I] "Deforestation", POSTNOTE Number 344 (2009), Parliamentary Office
of Science and Technology, London
Ryan's preparation of the briefing is acknowledged at the end of this
policy briefing document.
[J] Report for Selection: BIOMASS satellite mission, European Space
Agency (May 2012)
corroborates that Williams was a member of the Mission Advisory Group
(page 4) and the citation of research outputs [4,5], Section 3 (e.g. Pages
24, 27, 28, 30, 36, 144) in the scientific basis for mission selection.