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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 12 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 3811-3830, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 Jun 2018

Research article | 22 Jun 2018

Estimating aboveground carbon density and its uncertainty in Borneo's structurally complex tropical forests using airborne laser scanning

Tommaso Jucker1,2, Gregory P. Asner3, Michele Dalponte4, Philip G. Brodrick3, Christopher D. Philipson5,6, Nicholas R. Vaughn3, Yit Arn Teh7, Craig Brelsford8, David F. R. P. Burslem7, Nicolas J. Deere9, Robert M. Ewers10, Jakub Kvasnica11, Simon L. Lewis12,13, Yadvinder Malhi14, Sol Milne7, Reuben Nilus15, Marion Pfeifer16, Oliver L. Phillips12, Lan Qie10,12, Nathan Renneboog17, Glen Reynolds18, Terhi Riutta10,14, Matthew J. Struebig9, Martin Svátek11, Edgar C. Turner19, and David A. Coomes1 Tommaso Jucker et al.
  • 1Forest Ecology and Conservation group, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK
  • 2CSIRO Land and Water, 147 Underwood Avenue, Floreat, 6014, Western Australia, Australia
  • 3Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, 260 Panama Street, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
  • 4Department of Sustainable Agro-ecosystems and Bioresources, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione E. Mach, Via E. Mach 1, 38010 San Michele all'Adige, Italy
  • 5Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 6Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK
  • 7School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Cruickshank Building, St Machar Drive, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK
  • 8Department of Biosciences, Viikki Plant Science Center (ViPS), University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
  • 9Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NR, UK
  • 10Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhusrt Road, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK
  • 11Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, Department of Forest Botany, Dendrology and Geobiocoenology, Mendel University, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 12School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
  • 13Department of Geography, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  • 14Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
  • 15Forest Research Centre, Sabah Forestry Department, P.O. Box 1407, 90715 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
  • 16School of Biology, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK
  • 17Permian Global, Savoy Hill House, 7-10 Savoy Hill, London WC2R 0BU, UK
  • 18South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), Danum Valley Field Centre, P.O. Box 60282, 91112 Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
  • 19Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

Abstract. Borneo contains some of the world's most biodiverse and carbon-dense tropical forest, but this 750000km2 island has lost 62% of its old-growth forests within the last 40 years. Efforts to protect and restore the remaining forests of Borneo hinge on recognizing the ecosystem services they provide, including their ability to store and sequester carbon. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) is a remote sensing technology that allows forest structural properties to be captured in great detail across vast geographic areas. In recent years ALS has been integrated into statewide assessments of forest carbon in Neotropical and African regions, but not yet in Asia. For this to happen new regional models need to be developed for estimating carbon stocks from ALS in tropical Asia, as the forests of this region are structurally and compositionally distinct from those found elsewhere in the tropics. By combining ALS imagery with data from 173 permanent forest plots spanning the lowland rainforests of Sabah on the island of Borneo, we develop a simple yet general model for estimating forest carbon stocks using ALS-derived canopy height and canopy cover as input metrics. An advanced feature of this new model is the propagation of uncertainty in both ALS- and ground-based data, allowing uncertainty in hectare-scale estimates of carbon stocks to be quantified robustly. We show that the model effectively captures variation in aboveground carbon stocks across extreme disturbance gradients spanning tall dipterocarp forests and heavily logged regions and clearly outperforms existing ALS-based models calibrated for the tropics, as well as currently available satellite-derived products. Our model provides a simple, generalized and effective approach for mapping forest carbon stocks in Borneo and underpins ongoing efforts to safeguard and facilitate the restoration of its unique tropical forests.

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Short summary
Efforts to protect tropical forests hinge on recognizing the ecosystem services they provide, including their ability to store carbon. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) captures information on the 3-D structure of forests, allowing carbon stocks to be mapped. By combining ALS with data from 173 field plots on the island of Borneo, we develop a simple yet general model for estimating forest carbon stocks from the air. Our model underpins ongoing efforts to restore Borneo's unique tropical forests.
Efforts to protect tropical forests hinge on recognizing the ecosystem services they provide,...