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Operationalizing the Definition of Forest Degradation for REDD+, with Application to Mexico

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School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK
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Chair of Forest Inventory and Remote Sensing, Burckhardt-Institute, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 5, Göttingen 37077, Germany
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Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), antigua carretera a Pátzcuaro 8701, Morelia CP 58190, Michoacán, Mexico
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Departamento de Ecología y Recursos Naturales, C.U. Costa Sur, Universidad de Guadalajara, Independencia Nacional 151, Autlán CP 48900, Jalisco, Mexico
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2014, 5(7), 1653-1681; https://doi.org/10.3390/f5071653
Received: 21 April 2014 / Revised: 31 May 2014 / Accepted: 23 June 2014 / Published: 11 July 2014
The difficulty of defining and quantifying forest degradation is a major constraint in the implementation of the international mitigation mechanism Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Our aim is to develop an operational framework for defining and quantifying forest degradation at a local level for early REDD+ projects and for national REDD+ programmes, through a ground level approach. We critically review and discuss national and international definitions of forest and of forest degradation, and then analyze the main difficulties in making these operational, evaluating the key elements and threshold values that are used, and contextualizing them using Mexico as a case study. We conclude that, given the lack of historical biomass data and the limited capability for monitoring degradation using remote sensing, forest degradation is best measured against a local benchmark that represents areas of low or no degradation that have comparable biophysical characteristics. Use of benchmarks of this type could offer a quick-start option for local assessment and construction of reference levels for forest degradation. These could be refined as more data become available and could eventually be integrated into national monitoring systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest monitoring; Mexico; community-based monitoring; remote sensing; tropical dry forests; deforestation; benchmark forest monitoring; Mexico; community-based monitoring; remote sensing; tropical dry forests; deforestation; benchmark
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Morales-Barquero, L.; Skutsch, M.; Jardel-Peláez, E.J.; Ghilardi, A.; Kleinn, C.; Healey, J.R. Operationalizing the Definition of Forest Degradation for REDD+, with Application to Mexico. Forests 2014, 5, 1653-1681.

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