Clark Labs to unveil forest-saving tools at COP16 event in Cancun

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The REDD team at Clark Labs: In back are Elia Machado, research assistant; Yujia Zhang, 2nd-year graduate student in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE); Cao Kang, Ph.D. candidate in geography; and Stefano Crema, IDRISI development research analyst. Standing, in center is Yao Zhou, 2nd-year (GISDE). Seated is J. Ronald Eastman, professor of Geography, and director of Clark Labs and the IDRISI Project at Clark University.

The REDD team at Clark Labs: In back are Elia Machado, research assistant; Yujia Zhang, 2nd-year graduate student in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE); Cao Kang, Ph.D. candidate in geography; and Stefano Crema, IDRISI development research analyst. Standing, in center is Yao Zhou, 2nd-year (GISDE). Seated is J. Ronald Eastman, professor of Geography, and director of Clark Labs and the IDRISI Project at Clark University.

New forest-saving geographic information system (GIS) tools implemented by Clark Labs will be unveiled at Forest Day 4, on Dec. 5 at COP16, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th Conference of the Parties, in Cancun, Mexico.

REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation -- is a climate change mitigation strategy first proposed at the COP11 meeting in Montreal that offers developing countries incentives to reduce their forest carbon emissions. Working round-the-clock during the past months, Clark Labs has implemented new digital map analysis tools that facilitate the planning and management of REDD projects – initiatives aimed at reducing forest loss in return for financial remuneration.

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“If a climate treaty is passed at COP16, it will require national-level compliance among all signatories,” said J. Ronald Eastman, Professor of Geography and director of Clark Labs and the IDRISI Project at Clark University. Eastman and Stefano Crema, IDRISI development research analyst, will travel to Cancun on Dec. 2, returning Dec. 7.

“What we have done is to implement two important methodologies in Clark Labs’ IDRISI GIS software," Eastman adds. "The first is a procedure for estimating forest greenhouse gas emissions that is of special importance for the planning and management of individual REDD projects. The second is a national-level REDD+ planning tool called OSIRIS. Incorporating these into IDRISI allows for the integrated use of these methodologies with IDRISI’s powerful land cover change modeling tools.” The addition of such tools has been a collaborative effort, with substantial scientific input and funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Conservation International.

The tool for estimating greenhouse gas emissions is based on a methodology developed by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund. As new and additional standards emerge, the tool will be adapted to accommodate them.

OSIRIS allows users to estimate and map the impacts of alternative policies for REDD+ on deforestation, emission reductions, and revenue generation. The model was developed by Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Resources Institute, and NORAD (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) and its inclusion in IDRISI is its first GIS implementation.  “Including OSIRIS in IDRISI will allow local and national decision makers in forest countries to design policies and incentives for REDD+ that effectively mitigate climate change, efficiently target resources, and equitably distribute revenue,” said Jonah Busch, Climate and Forest Economist in the Science and Knowledge division of Conservation International, and the lead developer of the OSIRIS model.

Forest Day is one of the world's leading global platforms for those interested in forests and climate change. The theme for Forest Day 4 is "Time to Act," highlighting the urgent need to protect the world's forests, conserve habitats and prevent biodiversity loss.

Last year, nearly 1,500 people attended Forest Day 3 in Copenhagen, including world leaders, three Nobel Prize winners, top scientists, donors, global and regional media, policymakers, leaders of indigenous communities, Clark Labs, and notably, 250 climate negotiators.

Clark Labs is based within the world-renowned Graduate School of Geography at Clark University and has pioneered research advancements in such areas as land change analysis, image time series analysis and decision support. Clark Labs is significantly involved in software development and consulting services for REDD implementation.

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