Suitability of Global Forest Change data to report forest cover estimates at national level in Gabon
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Remote Sensing of Environment
For purposes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) accounting, estimation of deforestation area in tropical countries often relies on satellite remote sensing in the absence of National Forest Inventories (NFI). Gabon has recently launched a National Climate Action Plan with the intent of establishing a National Forest Monitoring System that meets the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2006 guidelines for the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector. The assessment of areas of forest cover and forest cover change is essential to estimate activity data, defined as areas of various categories of land use change by the IPCC guidelines. An appropriately designed probability sample can be used to estimate forest cover and net change and their associated uncertainties and express themin the form of confidence intervals at selected probability thresholds as required in the IPCC 2006 guidelines and for reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, wall-to-wall mapping is often required to provide a comprehensive assessment of forest resources and as input to land use plans for management purposes, but wall-to-wall approaches are more expensive than a sample based approach based on visual interpretation and require specialized equipment and staff. The recent release of the University ofMaryland (UMD) Global Forest Change (GFC)map products could be an alternative for tropical countries wishing to develop their own wall-to-wall forest map products but without the resources to do so. Therefore, the aimof this study is to assess the feasibility of replacing nationalwall-to-wall forest maps with forest maps obtained from the UMD GFC initiative. Amodel assisted regression (MAR) estimator was applied using the combination of reference data obtained from a probability sample and forest cover and forest cover change maps either (i) produced nationally or (ii) obtained fromthe UMD GFC data. The resulting activity data are potentially more accurate than the SRS estimate and provide an assessment of the precision of the estimate which is not available from map accuracy indices alone. Results obtained for 2000 and 2010 for both the national and UMD GFC datasets confirm the high level of forest cover in Gabon, more than 23.5 million ha representing approximately 88.5% of the country. Although the UMD GFC dataset provides a reliablemeans of producing area statistics at national level combined with appropriate sample reference data, thus offering an alternative to nationally produced datasets (i) the classification errors associated with the Global dataset have non-negligible effects on both the estimate and the precision which supports the more general statement that map data should not be used alone to produce area estimates, and (ii) the maps obtained fromthe UMD GFC dataset require specific calibration of the tree cover percentage representing a non-negligible effort requiring specialized staff and equipment. Guidelines on howto use and further improve UMD GFC maps for national reporting are suggested. However, this additional effort would still most likely be less than the production of national based maps.
Sannier, Christophe; McRoberts, Ronald E.; Fichet, Louis-Vincent. 2016. Suitability of Global Forest Change data to report forest cover estimates at national level in Gabon. Remote Sensing of Environment. 173: 326-338. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2015.10.032.