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Carbon dynamics and land-use choices: building a regional-scale, multidisciplinary model

Suzi Kerr, Shuguang Liu, Alexander Pfaff, R. Flint Hughes
Journal of Environmental Management 69 (2003) 25–37

PDF link iconPolicy enabling tropical forests to approach their potential contribution to global-climate-change mitigation requires forecasts of land use and carbon storage on a large scale over long periods. In this paper, we present an integrated modeling methodology that addresses these needs. We model the dynamics of the human land-use system and of C pools contained in each ecosystem, as well as their interactions. The model is national scale, and is currently applied in a preliminary way to Costa Rica using data spanning a period of over 50 years. It combines an ecological process model, parameterized using field and other data, with an economic model, estimated using historical data to ensure a close link to actual behavior. These two models are linked so that ecological conditions affect land-use choices and vice versa. The integrated model predicts land use and its consequences for C storage for policy scenarios. These predictions can be used to create baselines, reward sequestration, and estimate the value in both environmental and economic terms of including C sequestration in tropical forests as part of the efforts to mitigate global climate change. The model can also be used to assess the benefits from costly activities to increase accuracy and thus reduce errors and their societal costs.

 

The Dynamics of Deforestation and the Supply of Carbon Sequestration: Illustrative Results from Costa Rica

Suzi Kerr, Alexander Pfaff, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
Central America Project, Environment: Conservation and Competitiveness. HIID 2001. Chapter 15.

PDF link iconIn this chapter we consider potential gains derived from preventing deforestation, drawing heavily from information from Chapter 14. It uses the same economic model and econometric technique and the same land use/land cover data. It also uses the carbon stock estimates presented there. The key difference is that, instead of using proxies for land-use returns such as ecological characteristics related to higher productivity, we attempt to directly estimate dollar-valued returns. We use these as an independent variable to explain and predict deforestation patterns. This allows us to simulate the potential supply of carbon sequestration in response to dollar-valued returns for certified emissions reductions. Payments for CERs will reduce deforestation by lowering the net return from forest clearing. The loss of the reward for carbon sequestration will partially offset the positive return from agricultural uses. To estimate the effect of such payments on deforestation, and hence CER supply, we need to estimate the response of deforestation to changes in returns to land use. An increase in agricultural returns is empirically equivalent to a reduction in carbon CER payments. Thus, we construct a variable that estimates the potential return of a plot of land if it is cleared. We construct a variable that varies across space (different crop suitability and yields) and time (changes in export prices, technology, and labor costs). We then use this variable in our econometric estimation. The results are used to calculate a supply curve of CERs. These results are illustrative only. They are produced as part of an ongoing effort at estimation (Kerr, Pfaff, Hughes et al. 2000) and are used to show some underlying features of a dynamic supply curve.

 

How Can Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Forests Be Rewarded? Evidence from Case Of Costa Rica

Suzi Kerr, Alexander Pfaff, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Marco Boscolo
Central America Project, Environment: Conservation and Competitiveness. HIID 2001. Chapter 14.

PDF link iconThe chapter is structured as follows. First, below, we begin this analysis of the process influencing land changes with a dynamic model of land-use choices. Such models have often been suggested, but crucial features have often been neglected in application. This model generates testable hypotheses regarding factors underlying patterns of land-use changes in tropical areas. The next section describes the data collected for this project and discusses the quality of land-use data. It also outlines the variables used to test the implications of the model. Following that, we present our results and then discuss the linkage from land-use changes to implied carbon sequestration, and the quality of information currently available on carbon sequestration. Finally, we present some conclusions and lessons learned.

 

The Kyoto Protocol & Payments for Tropical Forest: An Interdisciplinary Method for Estimating Carbon-Offset Supply and Increasing the Feasibility of a Carbon Market under the CDM

Alexander Pfaff, Suzi Kerr, R. Flint Hughes, Shuguang Liu, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, David Schimel, Joseph Tosi, Vicente Watson
Ecological Economics 35 (2000) 203–221

PDF link iconProtecting tropical forests under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) could reduce the cost of emissions limitations set in Kyoto. However, while society must soon decide whether or not to use tropical forest-based offsets, evidence regarding tropical carbon sinks is sparse. This paper presents a general method for constructing an integrated model (based on detailed historical, remote sensing and field data) that can produce land-use and carbon baselines, predict carbon sequestration supply to a carbon-offsets market and also help to evaluate optimal market rules. Creating such integrated models requires close collaboration between social and natural scientists. Our project combines varied disciplinary expertise (in economics, ecology and geography) with local knowledge in order to create high-quality, empirically grounded, integrated models for Costa Rica.