Australia has TERN and similar national ecosystem observatories operate in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. But what about large-scale terrestrial ecosystem monitoring, research and management in the broader Oceania region?
To find out more, this month we head to Australia’s nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea (PNG)—home to the world’s third largest tropical rainforest where an estimated 5-10% of the world’s plant and animal species are found.
159 forest plots in 7 provinces have been assessed under PNG's National Forest Inventory project (image courtesy of PNG Forestry Association)
Dr Ruth Turia of PNG’s Forest Authority says that although the nation’s forest cover is high (78% of land mass) and still intact (76% undisturbed) with low levels of deforestation (average 0.05% annually between 2000 and 2015), the nation’s forests are coming under increasing pressure from agriculture (both subsistence and commercial) and commercial logging.
From high above the canopy right down to the ground, PNG’s landmark National Forest Inventory (NFI) project is collecting detailed information on forest produce, carbon stocks, soil characteristics, biodiversity in both flora and fauna, and the socio-economic aspects of one of the world’s most important rainforests.
NFI uses a two-phase approach that combines both remote-sensing-based forest assessments and on-ground field inventory work. So far 159 forest plots in 7 provinces (out of a total of 22 provinces in the country) have been assessed.
Such coordination between landscape-scale remote sensing analyses and plot-based surveys enables environmental change to be assessed at the full range of scales. For example, remote sensing allows scientists to know where and when change is occurring, and on-ground monitoring assesses what’s changing, the direction and magnitude of change, and why change is occurring. Despite proven advantages, such an approach requires large (often national or continental) scale coordination and is therefore, surprisingly uncommon around the world and so far, has only been used by a handful of national-scale ecosystem monitoring projects, including TERN in Australia.
Field assessments have been conducted since 2017, and field data collected for analysis and reporting. Not only will the NFI make a significant scientific contribution to the understanding of PNG’s tropical rainforest and its biodiversity for sustainable management, it will also enable PNG to accurately estimate carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Dr Hitofumi Abe, a Chief Technical Advisor with UN FAO, says that the inventory has enabled PNG to progress the nation’s readiness for REDD+, which aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. It has also helped formulate climate change policies and report GHG emissions under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inventory sector covering emissions from human uses including commercial and forestry activities (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)).
Final workshop of the National Inventory Project held this morning. Congrats govt of #PNG through PNG Forest Authority & @FAOinPNG on the successful implementation of this multipurpose programme, funded by the #EU that has spanned 5 years. #ActNow #ClimateAction #SDG13 pic.twitter.com/14AWcpSubf— United Nations in Papua New Guinea (@UNinPNG) August 28, 2019
To help share such successes with other Pacific islands countries, PNG is cooperating with the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu via workshops and study tours.
TERN would like to congratulate our PNG colleagues and their collaborators for such a successful large-scale ecosystem monitoring effort. We look forward to working closely over the coming years on ecosystem monitoring, research and data sharing projects throughout the Oceania region.
Click on the images above to explore a stunning collection of photographs by Cory Wright for UN-REDD Programme
Published in TERN newsletter September 2019