Nakau talks a lot about conducting forest inventories in project sites where we work. Here is a little more on why we do them and what is involved. As told by Nakau’s Forest Ecosystem Specialist Manuel Haas.

Why do we do a forest inventory when establishing a carbon project?

To create a forest carbon project, it’s crucial to accurately determine the amount of carbon stored in the forest — known as the carbon stock. The carbon stock varies significantly based on factors like whether it’s a natural or planted forest, local climatic conditions, soil quality, tree species, age of the trees, and more.

To reliably estimate the forest carbon stock, we must collect ground-based data by physically measuring trees. This is the only way to confidently estimate the carbon emissions that would be released into the atmosphere if the forest were cut down or logged — and which can be prevented by supporting people to protect the forest.

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Conducting a forest inventory in Yato, East Makira. Photo: Kevin Sura/Live and Learn Solomon Islands

How does this work contribute to integrity in a project?

Forest inventories are both time consuming and costly, often ranking among the most expensive activities during project development. They represent a substantial investment in the quality of project design and the credibility of carbon credits.

During a forest inventory, we go to the field and employ professional forestry instruments and best practices to accurately measure trees. We then apply forest science to estimate forest biomass and carbon stock within a specific confidence interval. Only if the forest data meets an acceptable level of accuracy do we use it as the base for our project’s carbon accounting. This approach ensures we avoid overestimating forest carbon stocks and guarantees the project delivers real climate benefits.

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Botanical experts help record certain species in Yato. Photo: Kevin Sura/Live and Learn Solomon Islands

Who does this work and what are the realities of heading to the bush?

Forest inventories mostly occur in remote and inaccessible areas, requiring inventory teams to stay in the bush for several days to weeks. Once they enter these remote locations, they will remain there until they’ve completed their fieldwork. This requires thorough planning — which is the task of an experienced forest engineer in charge of coordinating the inventory. They will mobilise the field teams: a field coordinator, botanist and local forest rangers. The field coordinator is an experienced forester who guides the daily fieldwork and trains the rangers in the use of forest instruments and measurement techniques. The botanist is responsible for scientific identification of all tree and plant species.

Forest inventories are strenuous work. The teams need to cut their way through kilometres of dense forest every day, climb steep terrain, get showered by tropical downpours and sleep in makeshift camps. But we love getting out there and working in the natural environment.

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Carrying inventory equipment across deep rivers in Yato. Photo: Kevin Sura/Live and Learn Solomon Islands