NCEAS Project 2784

A dynamic integrated model of land use, carbon flows and carbon sequestration supply in Costa Rica

  • Suzi Kerr
  • Alexander Pfaff

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group16th—19th January 2001Participant List  
Working Group20th—24th August 2001Participant List  
Working Group11th—13th January 2002Participant List  
Working Group11th—14th August 2003Participant List  

Abstract
With the rise in importance of global climate change, society is actively exploring the possibility of using forest ecosystems as a carbon sink. Tropical forests may offer over two-thirds of such opportunities. The protection of tropical forests could offset global fossil fuel C emissions and reduce the cost of emissions limitations set in Kyoto. Certified emissions credits (CERs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) established in Kyoto will likely incorporate tropical forest sinks within efforts to meet emissions targets. While this could in principle result in significant economic and sequestration benefits, actual evidence on tropical C sinks is sparse. However, society must soon make key decisions concerning tropical forest sinks in the CDM.

The first major goal of our project is to estimate how much C sequestration will be generated in Costa Rica in response to any given monetary reward for C sequestration. Our advances in the ecological and economic components will be coupled to produce our first integrated output, an estimated supply or, equivalently, cost function for C sequestration (i.e., a relationship between the C reward and the C sequestration supplied by land users).

Our advances in the economic component start with excellent existing GIS databases on land use and land cover, and on the factors expected to affect land use choices. We will extend both of these types of data sets, in particular extending land-cover information back in time, and adding improved data on land returns. Next, we will both apply and extend the frontier of economic, observationally-based modeling of land use to provide a map from key factors to land choices.

On the ecological side, our advances start with systematic and comprehensive measurement of aboveground and soil C present within the range of forest ecosystems of Costa Rica, as well as the C dynamics within land-use gradients of each of those systems (e.g., pastures, croplands, and secondary forests of varying ages). With this and existing data, we will calibrate and verify both process-based and empirically-based ecological models that generate C predictions of varying complexity. This provides a map to C stocks from land use choices within different ecosystems. Our second goal is to contribute to the effective design of the rules that allow C sequestration in tropical locations to replace emissions reductions in developed countries. Our analyses will provide the necessary information for the baselines that permit CERs to be defined, and a C market to function. We will also perform integrated sensitivity analyses to determine whether simplified versions of our disciplinary and integrated models maintain sufficient accuracy. Sufficient accuracy will ensure the sequestration outcomes envisioned, while greater simplicity, which translates to lower costs of participation in trading, will stimulate further participation, lowering costs and raising efficiency of implementation of the Kyoto emissions limitations.

In order to achieve these goals we need to closely integrate the economic and ecology work creating dynamic feedbacks between physical and ecological characteristics of land and human land use choices. We also need to integrate the process-based and empirical ecological models to maximize the complementarities between them.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Presentations Kauffman, J. Boone; Tosi, Joseph; Arroyo, Pablo; Sanchez, Arturo; Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Topic: Carbon sequestration. Symposium: Entendiendo el protocolo de Kyoto: Las dimensiones humanas y biofisicas del secuestro de carbono, 19 February 2001. San Jose, Costa Rica.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi; Pfaff, Alexander; Sanchez, Arturo. 2000. The dynamics of carbon offset supply from sequestration in forests. Public Policy and the Environment Workshop. NBER Summer Institute. Cambridge, MA.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi; Power, William. 2000. The dynamics of deforestation in Costa Rica: Can incentives to preserve forests be used to tackle global warming?. Geography Institute, Victoria Institute. New Zealand.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Deforestation, carbon-offsets and the clean development mechanism. Symposium: Entendiendo el Protocolo de Kyoto: Las Dimensiones Humanas y Biofisicas del Secuestro de Carbono, 19 February 2001. Tinker Foundation. San Jose, Costa Rica.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Finding a path through the trees: Tropical land-use change and global climate policy. Resources for the Future Symposium: Can Carbon Cinks be Operational? 30 April 2001. Washington, DC.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi. 2001. LULUCF activities and the CDM: Finding a path through the trees. Center for Clean Air Policy CDM Dialogue, 22-23 April 2001. New York.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Modeling land use change, baselines and carbon supply. MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
Report or White Paper Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Seeing the forest and saving the trees: Tropical land-use change and global climate policy. Edited by Sedjo, R.A.; Toman, M. Can Carbon Sinks Be Operational? RFF Workshop Proceedings. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper 01-26.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi; Pfaff, Alexander; Sanchez, Arturo; Power, William. 2001. The dynamics of deforestation and the supply of carbon sequestration in Costa Rica. AERE Meetings Sessions on Land Use and Global Climate Change. New Orleans, LA.
Presentations Kerr, Suzi. 2001. Uncertainty and the contribution of tropical land-use to carbon mitigation. MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
Journal Article Liu, Shuguang; Anderson, Pamela; Zhou, Guoyi; Kauffman, J. Boone; Hughes, R. Flint; Schimel, David W.; Watson, Vicente; Tosi, Joseph. 2008. Resolving model parameter values from carbon and nitrogen stock measurements in a wide range of tropical mature forests using nonlinear inversion and regression trees. Ecological Modelling. Vol: 219. Pages 327-341.
Journal Article Pfaff, Alexander; Kerr, Suzi; Hughes, R. Flint; Liu, Shuguang; Sanchez, Arturo; Schimel, David W.; Tosi, Joseph; Watson, Vicente. 2000. The Kyoto Protocol and payments for tropical forest: An interdisciplinary method for estimating carbon-offset supply and increasing the feasibility of a carbon market under the CDM. Ecological Economics. Vol: 35. Pages 203.
Journal Article Sanchez-Azofeifa, G. A.; Castro-Esau, K.; Kurz, Werner; Joyce, Armond T. 2009. Monitoring carbon stocks in the tropics and the remote sensing operational limitations: from local to regional projects. Ecological Applications. Vol: 19(2). Pages 480-494.