Briefing note 09-B-01908: Land use area figures identified by the LUCAS mapping programme

Date: July 2009
Reference number:
Briefing note 09-B-01908

Approved for release

Date: 20 July 2009 MfE Priority:  Moderate
Security Level:   Number of Attachments: Nil
    MfE Ref No: 09-B-01908
  Description Relevant dates

Minister for the Environment

Hon Dr Nick Smith

Note the Land use area figures identified by the LUCAS mapping programme to inform the net position report and the 2020 target.

20 July 2009

Ministry for the Environment Contacts

Name Position Telephone 1st Contact
(cell) (work)
Steve Botica Manager LUCAS [Withheld] 439 7671
Todd Krieble Director Information [Withheld] 439 7640  
Nelson Gapare Senior Analyst LUCAS [Withheld] 439 7411  

Executive Summary

  1. The LUCAS (Land Use and Carbon Analysis System) programme was established to enable New Zealand to meets its reporting and accounting obligations under Article 3.3 of the Kyoto Protocol for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) activities.  LUCAS tasks are being undertaken in a manner designed to meet Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Good Practice Guidance (IPCC GPG) – (IPCC 2003).

  2. The LUCAS programme involves mapping land use at 1990, and then to map land-use changes for the time periods 1990-2007 and 2008-2012 (the first Commitment Period).  All mapping has involved the extensive use of satellite imagery, some aerial photography and other spatial data.
  3. The 2008 National Inventory Report due for submission in April 2010 will be the first time LULUCF sector data has come from LUCAS.
  4. Previous Inventory reports have used the National Exotic Forest Description (NEFD) developed and administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), which has proven to be a good proxy until the LUCAS data was delivered. 
  5. LUCAS has mapped post-1989 forest (Kyoto forest) area as 566,106 hectares.  This is 18,000 hectares lower than the estimate of eligible Kyoto forest area used in the 2009 Net Position report based on the NEFD.
  6. The new LUCAS Kyoto forest area figures would reduce the estimated uptake by the post-1989 forests by approximately 3 million tonnes CO2 over the period 2008 to 2012.  Everything else being equal this would reduce the Kyoto surplus from 9.6 million units to about 6.6 million units.
  7. A complete update of the net position is due early 2010.  Emissions projections for all sectors will be revised using updated input assumptions (including land area), for the 2010 update.  The change to the estimate of the land area input assumption alone is not sufficient to prompt an update to the net position.
  8. The results of the LUCAS mapping is shown in Table 1 below:  

Table 1:  Summary of key land use categories (hectares) mapped by LUCAS

Class Description   1990 2008   Difference
71 Natural Forest (key category) 8,141,990 8,087,091 -0.7%
72 Planted Forest - pre 1990 (key category) 1,478,847 1,451,900 38%
73 Post-1989 Forest  (key category) Kyoto eligible forest   566,106
74 Grassland - with woody biomass (key category) 1,151,909 1,029,415 -10.6%
>74 Non key classes 15,979,770 15,618,003 -2.3%
  Total   26,752,516   26,752,516  
  1. The area of Kyoto eligible forest is expected to increase further because there is up to 150,000ha of pre-1990 Planted forest yet to be assessed for Kyoto eligibility.  This area largely comprises small forest blocks (<20ha in size) where higher resolution data is required to definitively classify the areas into pre or post-1989 area.
  2. The area reported in Table 1 includes deforestation that occurred up to 31 December 2007.  Mapping of deforestation for 2008 is still in progress and is due to be completed by September 2009. Mapping and reporting of deforestation will occur annually through the Commitment Period but the final area of deforestation will not be defined until 2013 when the second tranche of land use mapping from newly acquired satellite imagery has been completed. 
  3. Our estimate is that allowing for the additional Kyoto eligible forest that could be derived from the pre-1990 Planted forest refinement work mentioned in paragraph 9 above and the potential deforestation activity, the 566,106ha could increase by 3% to 5% (16,980ha – 28,300ha) when our final report is tabled in April 2014.

Recommended Action

We recommend that you:

(a) Note that LUCAS has determined there is at least 566,106 hectares of Kyoto eligible forest.  This is 18,000 hectares lower than the estimate of eligible Kyoto forest area used in the 2009 Net Position report but falls within the range provided for the 2020 Target Cabinet paper and consultation round.

(b) Note that as a result of the LUCAS mapping data and if all other things remain equal, the Net Position would fall by 3 million tonnes compared to the 2009 published position.

(c)Note that as New Zealand elected to report at the end of the First Commitment Period, the LUCAS programme has scheduled activities to refine the land use area numbers throughout the first commitment period.  This refinement of less than 20 ha blocks and allowing for an estimate of deforestation through the period could further increase the area of Kyoto eligible forest by 3% to 5% (16,980ha – 28,300ha).


Todd Krieble
Director, Information                                                                        20 July 2009

Referred to Ministry Communications Staff:                                                 No



Hon Dr Nick Smith                                                                 

Minister for the Environment