The challenges of using satellite data sets to assess historical land use change and associated greenhouse gas emissions: a case study of three Indonesian provinces

Advances in satellite remote sensing and the wealth of earth observation (EO) data now available have improved efforts toward determining and quantifying historical land use and land cover (LULC) change. Satellite imagery can overcome the absence of accurate records of historical land use; however, the variability observed in the case study regions demonstrates a number of current challenges. Differences in spatial coverage, resolution and land cover classification can lead to challenges in analyzing historical data sets to estimate LULC change and associated GHG emissions. This paper demonstrates the calculation of LULC change from three existing, open-source data sets to show how this can lead to significant variation in estimates of GHG emissions related to differences in land classification methodologies, EO input data and period of investigation. This article focuses on selected regions of Indonesia, where quantifying land use change is important for GHG assessments of agricultural commodities and for evidencing progress against corporate and government deforestation commitments. Given the significance of GHG emissions arising from LULC change and the increasing need for emissions monitoring, this research highlights a need for consensus building to develop consistency in historical and future LULC change estimates. This paper concludes with a set of recommendations for improvements to ensure consistent LULC mapping.