The High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessments are a different ball game altogether. Alex Thorp of Ata Marie, a company helping carry out the work, tells us that the assessment process is simple in essence, but it remains a huge challenge due to the amount of land on which the assessments must be carried out - 2.6m hectares.
We arrived at Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) in South Sumatra in time to take part in the last day of field work before the team moved on to the next concession. A great deal of satellite image analysis had already taken place and the team had then spent three days flying over the concession to carry out an aerial assessment.
We made our way into the biggest patch of natural forest in the concession – a 6,000 Ha area of regenerated secondary forest that contains elephants and Sun Bears and countless other species. This was proper jungle!
A team of workers cleared a path through the scrub with machetes until we arrived in the cool shade of the forest. Like the High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment, a line transect was set and the team then set circular plots along it at 75m intervals. The trees in each 15m plot were then marked and their diameters measured. I learned that there is a tape measure that goes around the tree, but is calibrated to measure the diameter rather than the circumference – a fact which blew my mind! I'm told Pi is involved somehow.
As Alex had promised, this was relatively simple work. All of the data collected from satellite mapping, flyovers and field work will be brought together to create a clear map of where the most carbon-rich areas of APP’s concessions lie.
However, the HCS assessments only measure above-ground carbon. They do not take account of the carbon that can be released from below-ground – something that’s particularly relevant when it comes to plantations situated on peat. There is another team of experts, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, now studying this for us.
The peat team’s work has just started and when it is finished, it will be combined with the results of the HCV and HCS work to create Integrated Sustainable Forest Management Plans. These plans will set out the ways in which each of APP’s 38 suppliers’ concessions, should be run to minimise carbon emissions and maximise conservation potential. However, they cannot just focus on the concessions. In order to fully preserve forest, the entire surrounding landscape must be taken into account. This means we will have to work with governments, other businesses and NGOs if we are to make a lasting difference to the land.
As far as we know, plans like this have never been developed on the scale at which APP is working. We hope that they will represent a bright future for the landscapes of which we are custodians and we hope they will set a best practice example that others can follow.