New projects receive Fund for Climate Solutions internal grant awards

Photo collage of Arctic tundra, pine forest, and Amazon forest.

Six proposals have been granted funding from the Fund for Climate Solutions, an internal funding instrument created by the Board of Directors of Woodwell Climate Research Center (formarly Woods Hole Research Center). About $700,000 in funding was granted, marking the largest round of funding to date.

The Fund for Climate Solutions aims to advance climate solutions by extending or augmenting crucial research initiatives, seeding new projects that offer breakthrough policy or scientific impact, and allowing startup projects to get off the ground to show proof of concept work for outside funding opportunities.

The new projects being supported by the Fund:

Evaluating Next-Generation Spaceborne LiDAR for Estimating Biomass
Project Leads: Drs. Alessandro Baccini and Wayne Walker

Within the last two years, NASA has successfully launched ICESat-2 ATLAS and GEDI, two new space-based LiDAR systems. Both of these platforms, which have only just recently switched to operational data collection mode, likely will be central to the future of Woodwell Climate’s carbon monitoring program, making it critical to begin to gain core competency with these data as soon as possible. What does this data reveal about aboveground forest biomass and carbon density? How does this next-generation technology compare to previous systems? This project is focused on answering these questions, using acquisitions of ATLAS and GEDI data from locations in New England to measure how well the spaceborne measurements correlate with actual biomass. The results from this local effort will provide insight into how the new spaceborne LiDAR systems can be applied to research around the world.

Curbing Amazon forest degradation and fire disturbance by translating science for policy applications
Project Leads: Drs. Marcia Macedo, Wayne Walker, Paulo Brando, Michael Coe

Stopping growing emissions from deforestation and degradation is critical for Brazil and other tropical nations to achieve their greenhouse gas emissions targets, and for the world to address the climate crisis. This project aims to meet the demand for consistent, annual spatial data on emissions from forest degradation, leveraging Woodwell Climate’s expertise in forest carbon monitoring; our field-based understanding of fire dynamics and forest-climate interactions; and our strong network of collaborators in the region. It will accomplish this by establishing the Woodwell Policy Fellowship Program, designed to promote scientific interaction and policy innovation among WHRC scientists and strategic collaborators from IPAM Amazônia, the System for Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions (SEEG), and the MapBiomas Project. Over the next year, four policy fellows from IPAM and other partners will spend time in residence at Woodwell Climate, allowing for extended interactions and focused time to synthesize existing data; translate our science into policy briefs and products; and promote the operational use of this information for policy decisions.

Primary forest protection and food security
Project Lead: Dr. Glenn Bush

In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Equateur province, primary forests are being increasingly threatened by food production demands. Flooded rice production is a key agricultural technology whose expansion presents a critical risk to primary wetland forest ecosystems and threatens increased emissions from the loss of high carbon density forests and soils. This study will generate novel, empirical, field-based evidence, demonstrating how the implementation of “climate smart” flooded rice production can reduce expected emissions from deforestation and increase product yield for smallholder farmers. The project will apply the data to assess the GHG emissions implications of current versus “climate smart” agronomic practices and the associated social and economic costs and benefits of their adoption at scale. Through the project, Woodwell Climate will train local scientists and apply findings to a land use optimization analysis to identify priority areas for economically and socially efficient pathways to a low emissions future.

Integrating food production, water use, energy demand, and environmental integrity in a changing climate
Project Lead: Dr. Michael Coe

The Amazon and Cerrado biomes of Brazil contain the world’s largest tropical forest and tropical agricultural frontier. Deforestation and increasing greenhouse gasses may significantly alter the climate of this environmentally and economically important region in the coming decades. Both changes are increasing the temperature, reducing precipitation, shortening the rainy season, and increasing drought frequency and intensity. Together these human-induced changes to climate could threaten the remaining forests and the numerous ecosystem services they provide — agriculture, water quality and quantity, and hydropower energy. In this project, we will simulate the potential climate of the Amazon and Cerrado under changing greenhouse gas concentrations and deforestation scenarios at a spatial resolution tens to hundreds of times finer than has been accomplished before. Very high resolution simulations have the potential to transform our understanding of how the forests of the Amazon and Cerrado influence the climate system and impact Brazil’s economic and conservation goals.

Using Drone Mapping to Improve YKD Carbon Budgets
Project Leads: Drs. Sue Natali and Jennifer Watts

This project aims to improve our understanding of carbon emissions in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) by using very high resolution (5, 3, and 0.72 m) satellite imagery available through Planet Labs, as well as airborne hyperspectral imagery (NASA AVIRIS-NG), to provide fine detail mapping of water and vegetation cover. These land cover maps will then be used to scale up carbon dioxide and methane fluxes from measurement plots to the landscape scale.  We will use this research to develop improved methodologies for remote sensing analysis that can be applied over the entire YKD to track long term changes in vegetation properties, water cover, and ecosystem carbon budgets. This project builds upon YKD research supported by FCS and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Soil carbon restoration opportunity mapping
Project Lead: Dr. Jonathan Sanderman

Interest in soil carbon sequestration is rapidly gaining momentum as governments and industry are looking for climate solutions with economic and environmental co-benefits. This project aims to fill gaps in our existing knowledge by providing more accurate and spatially-resolved estimates of the total soil carbon sink capacity and restoration potential under different improved land use and management scenarios.

To learn more about supporting the Fund for Climate Solutions, contact Woodwell Chief Development Officer Leslie Kolterman at

Research area