Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2015

Measurement and Monitoring for REDD+: The Needs, Current Technological Capabilities and Future Potential

Scott J. Goetz, Matthew Hansen, Richard A. Houghton, Wayne Walker, Nadine Laporte, Jonah Busch

December 2014

Center for Global Development


This paper presents an overview of the state of measurement and monitoring capabilities for forests in the context of REDD+ needs, with a focus on what is currently possible, where improvements are needed, and what capabilities will be advanced in the near-term with new technologies already under development. We summarize the role of remote sensing (both satellite and aircraft) for observational monitoring of forests, including measuring changes in their current and past extent for setting baselines, their carbon stock density for estimating emissions in areas that are deforested or degraded, and their regrowth dynamics following disturbance. We emphasize the synergistic role of integrating field inventory measurements with remote sensing for best practices in monitoring, reporting and verification. We also address the potential of remote sensing for enforcing safeguards on conservation of natural forests and biodiversity. We argue that capabilities exist now to meet operational needs for REDD+ measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) and reference levels. For some other areas of importance for REDD+, such as safeguards for natural forests and biodiversity, monitoring capabilities are approaching operational in the near term. For all REDD+ needs, measurement capabilities will rapidly advance in the next few years as a result of new technology as well as advances in capacity building both within and outside of the tropical forest nations on which REDD+ is primarily focused.