Current estimates of CO2 emissions from forest degradation are generally based on insufficient information and are characterized by high uncertainty, while a global definition of ‘forest degradation’ is currently being discussed in the scientific arena. This study proposes an automated approach to monitor degradation using a Landsat time series. The methodology was developed using the Google Earth Engine (GEE) and applied in a pine forest area of the Dominican Republic. Land cover change mapping was conducted using the random forest (RF) algorithm and resulted in a cumulative overall accuracy of 92.8%. Forest degradation was mapped with a 70.7% user accuracy and a 91.3% producer accuracy. Estimates of the degraded area had a margin of error of 10.8%. A number of 344 Landsat collections, corresponding to the period from 1990 to 2018, were used in the analysis. Additionally, 51 sample plots from a forest inventory were used. The carbon stocks and emissions from forest degradation were estimated using the RF algorithm with an R2 of 0.78. GEE proved to be an appropriate tool to monitor the degradation of tropical forests, and the methodology developed herein is a robust, reliable, and replicable tool that could be used to estimate forest degradation and improve monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems under the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) mechanism.

Full citation

Duarte E., Barrera J.A., Dube F., Casco F., Hernandez A.J., Zagal E. (2020). Monitoring Approach for Tropical Coniferous Forest Degradation Using Remote Sensing and Field Data. Remote Sensing, 12:2531. 10.3390/rs12162531.