President and Senior Scientist Dr. Eric Davidson introduces the current issue of the Pantropical Scholars newsletter. The newsletter shares new in-country applications and the multiplying effects of the scholars’ efforts to train others, including a remote sensing approach to biodiversity in Mexico, sharing technical expertise in Gabon, a published report on declining deforestation rates in the Bolivian Legal Amazon, and helping an Indonesian community to adapt to climate change.
Tropical deforestation and forest degradation account for an estimated 17% of the world’s annual anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas contributor. Despite the important ecosystem services that tropical forests provide, basic information on these forests is often lacking, making it difficult to monitor deforestation and changes in forest-cover and associated carbon stock at global scales. Forest monitoring is becoming increasingly important to international policy efforts to slow the rates of tropical forest loss. Understanding mapping methods is critical to governments, forest communities, and indigenous groups engaged in the political process. There is an urgent and growing need to transfer the knowledge and skills required for forest monitoring, thus building the technical capacity of countries and communities to map and monitor their own forest resources.
These research and policy topics will be with society for generations. While there is urgency for the current generation of policy makers to carry out climate change mitigation and forest conservation efforts, the next generation will inevitably continue to deal with these issues, perhaps under even more challenging circumstances than at present. Therefore, integration of our research with training and education is strategically important for our mission and vision of advancing science to achieve sustainability goals.
The WHRC has had a long history of hosting visiting scholars from many countries, including graduate students, early and mid-career scientists, and technicians. This work often advances specific research project objectives, but also includes training in remote sensing, laboratory analyses, modeling, data analyses, and writing. The motivation for these efforts is the realization that solutions to national challenges in environmental resource management will require in-country human resources for science and policy.
An excellent example of this approach of integrating research and capacity building is the Pantropical Visiting Scholars Program. A select group of scholars from across the tropics including Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia visited the Woods Hole campus during a three-year program (2009-2011) to train with WHRC scientists to expand their skills in forest measurement and monitoring techniques for the purposes of advancing knowledge-transfer within their home regions. The program explored the technical aspects and approaches of tropical forest mapping, including field and remote sensing data acquisition, image processing, and statistical analyses, as well as the use of satellite imagery together with ground-based measurement techniques in the development of forest cover and carbon-stock maps.
The group has remained in contact, and they continue to produce a bi-annual newsletter as a follow-up to the pantropical WHRC scholar network. It is heartening to see the lasting impact of this group’s work, including new in-country applications and the multiplying effect of their efforts to train others. I congratulate these dedicated scholars as they provide us with examples of their ongoing impact in the newsletter’s pages. ~ Dr. Eric Davidson
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