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Winrock International

Forest Degradation

When viewed from above, deforestation is a brown gash in a green world, vivid proof that what once was verdant has succumbed to the axe or the bulldozer. Forest degradation — the loss of trees from logging, fires or harvesting firewood — is much more difficult to detect, even by remote sensing satellites.

Winrock has been a pioneer in measuring and monitoring emissions from forest degradation, combining sound science with practical approaches. In Guyana, Ghana, Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Guatemala and Liberia, Winrock provided key technical support to governments in formulating approaches to assess degradation emissions under their Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) programs. Winrock has also developed novel approaches to measuring emissions from selective logging, a major contributor to global degradation emissions. This approach has been applied in national forest reference levels submitted to the UNFCCC, including those of Guyana and Ghana.

Scientists from Winrock’s Ecosystem Services Unit recently quantified global emissions from degradation in a groundbreaking study published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management. The study, which represents the first complete analysis of emissions from forest degradation across the tropics, showed that forest degradation is a greatly underestimated source of emissions and highlighted its role in climate change mitigation.