Ground-Check Proves Errors in WRI-Coordinated LiDAR Mapping

Photo: Reuters

 

JAKARTA  —  An official document from the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry (12/10/2015), containing the results of a ground inspection of 2015’s burned peat areas in Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve, confirms that more than 63,000 hectares – almost the size of Singapore – of the wildlife reserve were afflicted by 2015’s forest and land fires.

These ground-check findings prove that a detailed analysis based on LiDAR mapping funded by the Norwegian government and under the coordination of the World Resources Institute (WRI) is both legally and technically erroneous.

According to the ministry ground-check results, 2015’s burned peat areas in the wildlife reserve were classified by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping analysis largely as secondary peat swamp forests of high, medium and low density.

This misleading classification underlines the fact that the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping clearly did not include a ground-level verification when classifying land cover in its detailed analysis.

The following two maps form the basis of the ground-check performed by the ministry’s South Sumatra office, which confirmed that the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping analysis had made serious mistakes in the classification of land cover, primarily by disregarding all evidence of 2015’s burned areas distributed throughout the Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve.

The events described above reinforce the notion that the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, which was submitted by the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) to the ministry in August this year, was plainly misleading in substance, from both a technical and legal perspective.

The WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping committed a similarly grave error in the Kahayan hydrological landscape located in Central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency, by omitting burned peat areas from 2015 spanning the equivalent of more than 140,000 soccer fields.

The two photographs below, provided by the ministry’s South Sumatra office, depict the onslaught of peat fires in the Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve in July 2015.

Careless errors 

By classifying land cover without paying regard to time-series data or using relevant government data as a reference basis, the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR is considered to have made careless mistakes in spatial terms.

When talking to foresthints.news (Nov 24), Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya – who is also a spatial analysis expert – cautioned that any detailed analysis derived from mapping results, including and especially mapping using LiDAR technology, should refer to time-series data, including the government’s legal data.

The two photographs below demonstrate that 2015’s peat fires in the Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve were still burning in August 2015. In fact, the peak in the distribution of active fire spots in the wildlife reserve, which plays host to the critically-endangered Sumatran elephant, occurred in September-October 2015.

 

Minister Siti Nurbaya previously confirmed that her ministry had yet to use, in any way, the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping findings submitted by the peat agency to the ministry.

The inaccuracy in the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping analysis are epitomized by its failure to cover even a single hectare of 2015’s burned peat areas so hugely prominent in pulpwood concessions – a decision made by the peat agency.

Profound errors on the part of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team – of misclassifying land cover by omitting evidence of 2015’s burned peat areas – mean that the detailed analysis based on the Norwegian-funded LiDAR mapping has lost all credibility and relevance in terms of substance.

 

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