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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 29;99(22):14256-61. Epub 2002 Oct 16.

Carbon emissions from tropical deforestation and regrowth based on satellite observations for the 1980s and 1990s.

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  • 1Department of Geography and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Carbon fluxes from tropical deforestation and regrowth are highly uncertain components of the contemporary carbon budget, due in part to the lack of spatially explicit and consistent information on changes in forest area. We estimate fluxes for the 1980s and 1990s using subpixel estimates of percent tree cover derived from coarse (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) satellite data in combination with a terrestrial carbon model. The satellite-derived estimates of change in forest area are lower than national reports and remote-sensing surveys from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) in all tropical regions, especially for the 1980s. However, our results indicate that the net rate of tropical forest clearing increased approximately 10% from the 1980s to 1990s, most notably in southeast Asia, in contrast to an 11% reduction reported by the FRA. We estimate net mean annual carbon fluxes from tropical deforestation and regrowth to average 0.6 (0.3-0.8) and 0.9 (0.5-1.4) petagrams (Pg).yr(-1) for the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. Compared with previous estimates of 1.9 (0.6-2.5) Pg.yr(-1) based on FRA national statistics of changes in forest area, this alternative estimate suggests less "missing" carbon from the global carbon budget but increasing emissions from tropical land-use change.

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