The role of remote sensing in monitoring biofuel feedstock and land use changes

Mar 2011

The aim of this study is to assess the potential to use Remote Sensing (RS) technologies and products to identify land use changes (direct and indirect) relating to the increased production of biofuel crops. The study assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the options available related to data availability, collection and analysis.
Specifically it is intended to assess indicators of LUC at different spatial scales for use within a monitoring framework and better define drivers and trends of LUC in different hotspots to contribute to better understanding of the biofuels and LUC discussion more broadly.
This report focuses on the US and hotspots within North Dakota. Follow-up work is intended to address similar monitoring issues in regions of Indonesia and Brazil. Section 3 explores the use of RS technology to monitor land use changes related to biofuel production. First, the topic of biofuel production in general is discussed as it relates to the three largest biofuel producing countries: USA, Brazil, and Indonesia. Section 4 focuses more specifically on the state of North Dakota, USA, as a case study for assessing the utility of the US National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer (NASS CDL) dataset to provide information on how land use changes (LUC) in general, and indirect land use change (iLUC) associated with biofuels in particular, may be assessed or monitored. Section 5 discusses the findings of the case study within the context of broader factors for land use change in North Dakota and conclusions and recommendations for further work are identified in Section 6.

By: M. Netzer, J. Chalmers, N. Harris, J. Kadyzewski (Winrock International)

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