School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
May/June 2023

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Tracking biomass in the Amazon

Paulo Brando, associate professor of ecosystem carbon capture, and postdoctoral associate Maria del Rosario Uribe led a research team studying changes in biomass in the Amazon and how they could impact carbon emissions.

Using maps from satellites to study above-ground biomass in the tropics, the research team leveraged historical data reaching back to 1950 to build empirical statistical and machine-learning models to make predictions about the future. Their study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that a decrease in tropical forest biomass stemming from changes in climate may lead to increased carbon emissions that could accelerate global warming. 

“We show that tropical ecosystems can resist a lot of climatic change, but these ecosystems’ future will depend on how we protect these areas from deforestation, logging, and human-made fires,” Brando says. 

Linking nature and the economy

Eli Fenichel, Knobloch Family Professor of Natural Resource Economics, has been at the center of a historic effort by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of Management and Budget, and the US Department of Commerce to expand the national economic accounting system to better capture the links between nature and the economy.

While serving at the OSTP, Fenichel played a critical role in developing a new national strategy to measure the economic value of natural resources and better understand nature’s contributions to the US economy.

Fenichel convened and led the agency that produced “National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions,” a framework for the multi-year effort to use data to better understand nature’s critical contributions to the US economy.

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