Tropical forest degradation

Integration of remote sensing techniques and information on ecosystem services to measure tropical forest degradation - A case study from the tropical rain forest of Ecuador



Forest degradation is a serious problem, particularly in developing countries. It affects the social, cultural, and ecological functions of forests, and it is a silent killer of sustainable development. In Ecuador, forest degradation is one of the greatest direct threats to biodiversity and forests, also affecting the forest ecosystem services. To remedy this situation, the country has a number of national-level governmental plans, and policies that support efforts to reduce forest degradation; moreover there are local initiatives being carried out by non-governmental organizations. One recent project aiming to promote sustainable forest management is located in the Napo providence (Central-Northern Ecuador), which has one of the greatest concentrations of biodiversity within the world's tropical forests. In collaboration with this initiative, the goal of this study is to integrate remote sensing techniques and information on ecosystem services to measure tropical forest degradation. In this respect, the main objectives are: (1) to measure the structural aspects of forest degradation by remote sensing methods and (2) to relate structural forest degradation to the provision of ecosystem services by interviews.



The study area is characterised by permanent cloud cover; therefore active remote sensors combined with field surveying are used to measure the structural aspects of forest degradation. In order to understand how forest degradation is related to the provision of ecosystem services, interviews will be carried out with forest experts and community representatives from the Hamtun Sumaku and Rukullakta communities. Currently, RADAR images and field surveying data are being compiled. The results will be used to evaluate the potential of RADAR images to detect degradation in tropical forest, to highlight the relations between degradation and different types of forest management and to raise awareness for the perception of local communities on forest degradation. Finally, the study will give recommendations for the assessment and management of forest degradation in tropical forests.




2012 - 2015


Landesgraduiertenförderung des Landes Baden-Württemberg


Jeaneth Delgado


Dr. Christine Schmitt


Rainforest Alliance, Planet Action, Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment and German Aerospace Center (DLR) through the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI)



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