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Estimating rainforest biomass stocks and carbon loss from deforestation and degradation in Papua New Guinea 1972-2002: Best estimates, uncertainties and research needs

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 03:46 authored by Bryan, J, Shearman, P, Ash, J, James KirkpatrickJames Kirkpatrick
Reduction of carbon emissions from tropical deforestation and forest degradation is being considered a cost-effective way of mitigating the impacts of global warming. If such reductions are to be implemented, accurate and repeatable measurements of forest cover change and biomass will be required. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has one of the world's largest remaining areas of tropical forest, we used the best available data to estimate rainforest carbon stocks, and emissions from deforestation and degradation. We collated all available PNG field measurements which could be used to estimate carbon stocks in logged and unlogged forest. We extrapolated these plot-level estimates across the forested landscape using high-resolution forest mapping. We found the best estimate of forest carbon stocks contained in logged and unlogged forest in 2002 to be 4770 Mt (13%). Our best estimate of gross forest carbon released through deforestation and degradation between 1972 and 2002 was 1178 Mt (18%). By applying a long-term forest change model, we estimated that the carbon loss resulting from deforestation and degradation in 2001 was 53 Mt (18%), rising from 24 Mt (15%) in 1972. Forty-one percent of 2001 emissions resulted from logging, rising from 21% in 1972. Reducing emissions from logging is therefore a priority for PNG. The large uncertainty in our estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes is primarily due to the dearth of field measurements in both logged and unlogged forest, and the lack of PNG logging damage studies. Research priorities for PNG to increase the accuracy of forest carbon stock assessments are the collection of field measurements in unlogged forest and more spatially explicit logging damage studies.


Publication title

Journal of Environmental Management










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Academic Press Ltd Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

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The definitive version is available at

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems

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