Deforestation scenarios show the importance of secondary forest for meeting Panama’s carbon goals

Jefferson S. Hall, Joshua S. Plisinski, Stephanie K. Mladinich, Michiel van Breugel, Hao Ran Lai, Gregory P. Asner, Kendra Walker, Jonathan R. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Context: Tropical forest loss has a major impact on climate change. Secondary forest growth has potential to mitigate these impacts, but uncertainty regarding future land use, remote sensing limitations, and carbon model accuracy have inhibited understanding the range of potential future carbon dynamics. Objectives: We evaluated the effects of four scenarios on carbon stocks and sequestration in a mixed-use landscape based on Recent Trends (RT), Accelerated Deforestation (AD), Grow Only (GO), and Grow Everything (GE) scenarios. Methods: Working in central Panama, we coupled a 1-ha resolution LiDAR derived carbon map with a locally derived secondary forest carbon accumulation model. We used Dinamica EGO 4.0.5 to spatially simulate forest loss across the landscape based on recent deforestation rates. We used local studies of belowground, woody debris, and liana carbon to estimate ecosystem scale carbon fluxes. Results: Accounting for 58.6 percent of the forest in 2020, secondary forests (< 50 years) accrue 88.9 percent of carbon in the GO scenario by 2050. RT and AD scenarios lost 36,707 and 177,035 ha of forest respectively by 2030, a carbon gain of 7.7 million Mg C (RT) and loss of 2.9 million Mg C (AD). Growing forest on all available land (GE) could achieve 56 percent of Panama’s land-based carbon sequestration goal by 2050. Conclusions: Our estimates of potential carbon storage demonstrate the important contribution of secondary forests to land-based carbon sequestration in central Panama. Protecting these forests will contribute significantly to meeting Panama’s climate change mitigation goals and enhance water security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-694
Number of pages22
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem services
  • Forest carbon
  • Mesoamerican Biological Corridor
  • Panama Vegetation-Cover Time-Series
  • Scenario planning
  • Tropical hydrology
  • Tropical secondary forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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