Methods for Measuring Greenhouse Gas Balances and Evaluating Mitigation Options in Smallholder Agriculture

pp 37-70

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Determining Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals Associated with Land-Use and Land-Cover Change

  • Sean P. KearneyAffiliated withUniversity of British Colombia
  • , Sean M. SmuklerAffiliated withUniversity of British Colombia Email author 


This chapter reviews methods and considerations for quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals associated with changes in land-use and land-cover (LULC) in the context of smallholder agriculture. LULC change contributes a sizeable portion of global anthropogenic GHG emissions, accounting for 12.5 % of carbon emissions from 1990 to 2010 (Biogeosciences 9:5125–5142, 2012). Yet quantifying emissions from LULC change remains one of the most uncertain components in carbon budgeting, particularly in landscapes dominated by smallholder agriculture (Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12:1001–1026, 2007; Biogeosciences 9:5125–5142, 2012; Glob Chang Biol 18:2089–2101, 2012). Current LULC monitoring methodologies are not well-suited for the size of land holdings and the rapid transformations from one land-use to another typically found in smallholder landscapes. In this chapter we propose a suite of methods for estimating the net changes in GHG emissions that specifically address the conditions of smallholder agriculture. We present methods encompassing a range of resource requirements and accuracy, and the trade-offs between cost and accuracy are specifically discussed. The chapter begins with an introduction to existing protocols, standards, and international reporting guidelines and how they relate to quantifying, analyzing, and reporting GHG emissions and removals from LULC change. We introduce general considerations and methodologies specific to smallholder agricultural landscapes for generating activity data, linking it with GHG emission factors and assessing uncertainty. We then provide methodological options, additional considerations, and minimum datasets required to meet the varying levels of reporting accuracy, ranging from low-cost high-uncertainty to high-cost low-uncertainty approaches. Technical step-by-step details for suggested approaches can be found in the associated website.