Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

Long-term, high-spatial resolution carbon balance monitoring of the Amazonian frontier: Predisturbance and postdisturbance carbon emissions and uptake


Corresponding author: M. Toomey, Department of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara, 1832 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. (


[1] We performed high-spatial and high-temporal resolution modeling of carbon stocks and fluxes in the state of Rondônia, Brazil for the period 1985–2009, using annual Landsat-derived land cover classifications and a modified bookkeeping modeling approach. According to these results, Rondônia contributed 3.5–4% of pantropical humid forest deforestation emissions over this period. Similar to well-known figures reported by the Brazilian Space Agency, we found a decline in deforestation rates since 2006. However, we estimate a lesser decrease, with deforestation rates continuing at levels similar to the early 2000s. Forest carbon stocks declined at an annual rate of 1.51%; emissions from postdisturbance land use nearly equaled those of the initial deforestation events. Carbon uptake by secondary forest was negligible due to limited spatial extent and high turnover rates. Net carbon emissions represented 93% of initial forest carbon stocks, due in part to repeated slash and pasture burnings and secondary forest clearing. We analyzed potential error incurred when spatially aggregating land cover by comparing results based on coarser-resolution (250 m) and full-resolution land cover products. At the coarser resolution, more than 90% of deforestation and secondary forest would be unresolvable, assuming that a 50% change threshold is necessary for detection. Therefore, we strongly suggest the use of Landsat-scale (~30m) resolution carbon monitoring in tropical regions dominated by nonmechanized, smallholder land use change.