REFORCHA - Continuous satellite-based indicators for mapping subtropical forest degradation and its environmental impacts

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Context and objectives

In the past, land use change assessments have mainly focussed on mapping conversion, dominantly from natural ecosystems to agriculture, and their associated environmental impacts. Objective measurements of the extent and severity of degradation are lacking for most parts of the world. This constitutes a major obstacle for assessing the connections between land use change and ecosystem functioning, including feedbacks between changes in vegetation composition and density, water use, and soil resources using processed-based models. The central objective of our research team is to integrate multi-source remotely sensed data, field observations and land surface models to enhance our insights in ecosystem degradation in dryland forests.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

Using the Dry Chaco in Argentina as an example, the project will develop advanced remote sensing methods and indicators to:

  1. Map forest degradation and to separate it from forest conversion and natural disturbances;
  2. Assess biophysical effects of forest dynamics on soil degradation, and ;
  3. Evaluate whether vegetation and soil degradation differ among actor groups and whether conservation policies are effective in mitigating degradation in dryland forests.

Expected products and services

Spatio-temporal reconstruction of land degradation in the Dry Chaco; Evaluation of an ensemble of land surface model simulation in terms of soil moisture; Longitudinal analysis of impact of land use on forest cover change and land degradation; Temporally complete maps of moderate-scale vegetation indices derived from moderate resolution imagery

In Argentina, provincial institutions manage natural resources. These institutions are supplied with low technological material and financial support. The expected products will be transferred to local institutions and governmental administrations, and allow them to improve natural resource management.