$451K grant backs Clark Labs' work with Google.org land-cover analysis

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded a grant of $451,000 to Clark Labs in support of their current work with Google.org in the development of on-line tools for REDD projects. REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a climate change mitigation strategy that offers developing countries incentives to reduce forest carbon emissions.

“Clark Labs consistently leverages its academic base to develop new and customized research tools and software solutions that respond to current pressing needs in a range of environmental science problems.”

REDD implementation is complex and must follow approved standards and methodologies. Carbon is assessed and quantified in a REDD project area and if the area is verifiably protected, the developing country receives compensation, i.e., carbon offset payments.

One of the first required activities of REDD is the modeling of a business-as-usual baseline, a scenario of projected deforestation that would occur in the absence of REDD. The Land Change Modeler application within the IDRISI Taiga software, developed by Clark Labs, includes the capacity to model a baseline, with tools for the calibration, validation and creation of maps of expected future deforestation trends, a fairly complex process. Yet the implementation of REDD relies on substantial computing and data resources, and requires significant effort and investment. It is hoped that providing accessible modeling tools with Google’s cloud computing resources and wealth of geospatial data will encourage broader adoption of REDD.

The grant supports the development of a prototype of the land change analysis and prediction tools for Google.org’s Earth Engine platform, a technology in development that enables global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the Earth’s forests. It is planned that Google will host the required geospatial data layers to implement a REDD project, including maps of those factors identified as critical causes of deforestation, such as proximity to roads, slopes or distance from existing deforestation.

The grant also funds the extension of tools within Land Change Modeler for the specific requirements and parameters of REDD. Utilizing the methodology from the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund for mosaic deforestation, the new tools will guide the user through the steps of baseline development for a REDD project area--land change analysis of the reference, project and leakage areas, the identification of the carbon pools and input of carbon density values, and the estimation of emissions for projected dates. This new functionality will also directly produce the multitude of tables and graphics for the carbon accounting reporting requirement of REDD. The preparation costs of REDD will be significantly reduced by the automation provided by these tools. Further, the integration of the REDD methodology will facilitate project deployment.

This project will use several case study areas provided by Conservation International, with whom Clark Labs has maintained a longstanding collaborative relationship.

“Our support to Clark Labs at Clark University recognizes their continuous leadership role in Geographic Information Science, advancing areas of decision support, uncertainty management, change and time series analysis, and dynamic modeling,” indicated Dr. Luis Solorzano, Program Director of Environmental Science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “Clark Labs consistently leverages its academic base to develop new and customized research tools and software solutions that respond to current pressing needs in a range of environmental science problems.”

Clark Labs is based within the world-renowned Graduate School of Geography at Clark University and is the developer of the IDRISI Taiga GIS and Image Processing software and the Land Change Modeler software extension to ArcGIS.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The goal of the Foundation’s Environmental Conservation Program is to change the ways in which people use important terrestrial and coastal marine ecosystems to conserve critical ecological systems and functions, while allowing sustainable use.

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