Clark Labs and Conservation International Partner to Develop REDD-Specific Tools within IDRISI Taiga’s Land Change Modeler Application

Worcester, MA — Clark Labs and Conservation International (CI) have recently signed a contract to partner in the application of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) baselines as well as the co-design and development of REDD-specific functionality within the Land Change Modeler application in the IDRISI Taiga GIS and Image Processing system. Clark Labs and CI’s Science and Knowledge Division (formerly the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science) have shared a long-standing collaborative relationship in the testing, application and improvement of spatial modeling tools for REDD projects.

The technical issues of REDD–carbon accounting, additionality, baseline or “business as usual,” leakage and permanence—are complex and require sophisticated tools. Currently, IDRISI Taiga and its Land Change Modeler is the only integrated modeling solution to address many aspects of REDD projects. The Land Change Modeler application was developed by Clark Labs in cooperation with Conservation International in a prior contract to address land cover change and its impacts on biodiversity. Clark Labs, with close collaboration from Conservation International, will enhance the current tools with additional functionality and an automated workflow.

“Conservation International is a major player in the development of REDD projects throughout the world,” stated Stefano Crema, Research Associate at Clark Labs. “Our relationships with organizations such as CI are extremely valuable, as they inform and optimize our development of robust analytical and modeling tools to solve complicated and multi-faceted problems.”

The first step in implementing a REDD project at the site or national level is to estimate the deforestation and/or degradation baseline, i.e., the expected future rate and distribution of change if a REDD project or policy is not employed. Conservation International has worked with the World Bank, CATIE (Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza) and Clark Labs in the development of the first and second version of the baseline method for the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund, and it is currently under review by the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) Program for approved methods. Following IPCC guidelines, application of the method requires not only the generation of a precise map of historical deforestation and biomass estimates, but also spatial modeling of the expected future trends of deforestation, a step accomplished using GIS modeling tools. In the case of the BioCF method submissions to VCS, the IDRISI Taiga software was utilized.

Dr. Marc Steininger, Scientific Director of Habitat Monitoring and Climate Change Mitigation Science and Knowledge division of Conservation International explained, “Clark has created a state-of-the-art tool for modeling future land-use change, a key need for assessing future emissions and a requirement for setting emissions baselines for REDD projects.” IDRISI Taiga currently allows for the calibration, validation and creation of maps of expected future deforestation trends, a fairly complex process.

The purpose of this contract between Clark Labs and Conservation International is to design a REDD tool within the Land Change Modeler application of IDRISI to guide the user through the steps of baseline development and directly produce tables and graphics necessary for reporting. This new tool will greatly reduce the time and cost in the development of a deforestation baseline, which many regard as the most challenging technical hurdle in project development for many prospective REDD projects. The project will also include case studies, testing in different REDD scenarios and production of user guidelines. The tool will be co-designed by CI and Clark Labs. CI will provide all case study data for testing the tool.

“Conservation International greatly values its professional collaboration with Clark Labs,” stated Dr. Steininger. “Their long history of providing low-cost, high capacity analysis tools and training is a testament to their dedication to helping international organizations better manage natural resources and conserve biodiversity.”

It is hoped that the results of this collaboration will allow for wider adoption of REDD project development from the carbon and climate community by providing a more accessible approach to the complex technical challenges.