National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Global Change Biology (2012) 18, 3346–3366; doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02782.x


We present a generic spatially explicit modeling framework to estimate carbon emissions from deforestation (INPE-EM). The framework incorporates the temporal dynamics related to the deforestation process and accounts for the biophysical and socioeconomic heterogeneity of the region under study. We build an emission model for the Brazilian Amazon combining annual maps of new clearings, four maps of biomass, and a set of alternative parameters based on the recent literature. The most important results are as follows: (a) Using different biomass maps leads to large differences in estimates of emission; for the entire region of the Brazilian Amazon in the last decade, emission estimates of primary forest deforestation range from 0.21 to 0.26 Pg C yr -1. (b) Secondary vegetation growth presents a small impact on emission balance because of the short duration of secondary vegetation. In average, the balance is only 5% smaller than the primary forest deforestation emissions. (c) Deforestation rates decreased significantly in the Brazilian Amazon in recent years, from 27 Mkm2 in 2004 to 7 Mkm2 in 2010. INPE-EM process-based estimates reflect this decrease even though the agricultural frontier is moving to areas of higher biomass. The decrease is slower than a non-process instantaneous model would estimate as it considers residual emissions (slash, wood products, and secondary vegetation). The average balance, considering all biomass, decreases from 0.28 in 2004 to 0.15 Pg C yr -1 in 2009; the nonprocess model estimates a decrease from 0.33 to 0.10 Pg C yr -1. We conclude that the INPE-EM is a powerful tool for representing deforestation-driven carbon emissions. Biomass estimates are still the largest source of uncertainty in the effective use of this type of model for informing mechanisms such as REDD+. The results also indicate that efforts to reduce emissions should focus not only on controlling primary forest deforestation but also on creating incentives for the restoration of secondary forests.