Empowering Forest Monitoring in the Pacific Islands
In the ongoing battle against climate change, understanding the connection between land use changes and carbon emissions is paramount. Advancing this understanding formed the cornerstone of the GFOI-SilvaCarbon Regional Workshop, convened in Honiara, Solomon Islands, from August 7 to 11, 2023. The workshop, centered on forest monitoring through land cover mapping, aimed to enhance carbon emission estimates, with a particular focus on bolstering Measurement, Reporting and Verification processes.
The workshop was organized by the SilvaCarbon program, an initiative of the U.S. government, with the support of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The workshop saw a diverse participation of 28 attendees representing various national institutions, including the Ministry of Forestry of the Solomon Islands, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, as well as the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Salomon Islands National University.
Representatives from neighboring countries like Vanuatu, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea lent a regional perspective. International entities, including Google, the FAO National Forest Monitoring Team, and Boston University, added global insights to the discussions.
“It was a pleasure to work alongside the engaged participants, Google, USGS, Boston University and others. The Island States have very unique and urgent needs to address the impacts of climate change on their environment. The workshop provided an opportunity to share tools and methods that can effectively and rapidly provide local experts with valuable analyses and information to very concretely assess land cover and land use changes, impacts from weather events, and estimate 'blue carbon' opportunities”, said Erik Lindquist, FAO Forestry Officer.
The essence of carbon emission estimation lies in monitoring land use changes. Guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land use categories are mapped to calculate emissions. At the workshop, participants were introduced to an open-source algorithm designed to map IPCC land use categories over time. The IPCC's guidance assists countries in selecting pertinent land use categories for mapping, ensuring emissions estimation is accurate. Given the limitations of pixel-counting techniques, sampling methods provide a more reliable approach.
The support to countries centers in establishment of National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) through remote sensing and on-the-ground methodologies. In this sense, hands on cloud-computing platforms, including Google Earth Engine, Collect Earth Online and SEPAL, equipped attendees with cutting-edge tools for precise mapping, including mangrove mapping and land use interpretation.
Positive Impacts and Valuable Insights
Participant feedback was resoundingly positive. Florence Pupuka from the Ministry of Forestry, Solomon Islands, noted the practical applicability of the training, “the training was very useful and will now be applied in our daily work.”
Inge Jonckheere, FAO Forestry Officer, commended the workshop's motivation and gender-balanced participation, underscoring its positive impact. “It was a great experience to see many very motivated trainees and a great gender balance, and even more rewarding since they indicated that the training was useful for their own national forest and land management”, Inge explained.
Erik Lindquist from the NFM team of FAO showing the satellite data mapping options using Open Foris SEPAL and Florence Pupuka from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry presenting the national work on Land Cover Mapping for Estimating Emissions.
The workshop's inclusive approach facilitated the exchange of diverse perspectives, fostering cross-border collaboration and enriching discussion.
As the world rallies to address climate change, regional initiatives like this one stand as essential platforms to nurture expertise, encourage collaboration, and advance accurate and effective carbon emissions mitigation strategies. FAO's commitment to empowering emissions estimation capabilities and making available technical support and platforms such as SEPAL and Open Foris reflect a collective drive to safeguard our planet's future.