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LEAF technical guidance series: Forest degradation guidance and decision support tool

Deforestation has been the primary focus of REDD+ efforts to date for a number of reasons, chiefly because it causes the majority of emissions from the forest sector and methods to estimate emissions from deforestation are well established. However, emissions from forest degradation may be substantial, and in some areas may be higher than those from deforestation. In countries with relatively low emissions from deforestation (e.g. Republic of Congo, Guyana, and Peninsular Malaysia) emissions from selective logging were about a third or more of those from deforestation. Meanwhile, disturbances result in annual degradation of approximately 100 million hectares of forests globally, which is nearly 10 times greater than the area impacted by deforestation. Moreover, degradation may ultimately lead to deforestation, indicating the need to monitor and track the impacts of degradation over time.

While measurement and monitoring of deforestation is relatively straight-forward (and may not differ significantly based on the type of deforestation), measurement and monitoring of forest degradation can be quite complex. Forest degradation is difficult to detect using medium resolution remote sensing imagery (e.g. Landsat) and the impacts of degradation likely differ by location, forest type, and type of degradation1. Some types of degradation may contribute a significant portion of total emissions while others may be relatively minor. Emissions may be difficult to estimate (e.g. for illegal logging), and may vary widely over time.

This decision support tool, from USAID’s Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) and Winrock International, provides guidance on how and when to monitor and measure forest degradation, and how to incorporate forest degradation into the framework of a broader REDD+ measurement and monitoring plan. The intended user will be familiar with basic concepts of REDD+ and measurement and monitoring of forest carbon at a national or subnational level.

Download the decision support tool here: Forest degradation guidance and decision support tool