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2.5 Monitoring

Requirement

  • The project shall have a monitoring plan in place before validation, to quantify and document the progress of carbon sequestration as well as ensure that the project continues to be sustainably managed.
  • Verification shall take place five years, and then every ten years after the proejct start date.  Projects shall be monitored 6-12 months prior to each verification due date to allow time for verification to be carried out by the due date.  If there are extenuating circumstances for a delay, the project shall seek the approval of the Forestry Commission.  if approval is granted, a Verification Extension Approval shall be uploaded to the UK Woodland Carbon Registry.
  • At year 5, the 'Year 5 Monitoring Protocol' shall be used for all projects, whether 'standard' or 'small' projects.
  • From year 15 onwards, the Carbon Assessment Protocol shall be followed for 'standard' projects.  There is a more basic monitoring process for 'small' projects. 
  • Single projects or groups shall submit a Project Progress Report alongside the relevant monitroing report.
  • Corrective actions shall be undertaken if establishment and/or tree growth and carbon sequestration rates do not meet expectations.

The monitoring plan will be checked at validation.  The WCC Monitoring Report will be checked at each verification.

Monitoring Plan

Each project needs to have a monitoring plan in place before validation.  Monitoring will enable the project to quantify and document the progress of carbon sequestration as well as ensure that the project is being managed to the UK Forestry Standard.

The monitoring plan shall contain details of how tree stocking density and carbon stocks will be assessed throughout the duration of the project, and outline how the Year 5 Survey Protocol or other Carbon Assessment Protocol method will be applied. The details shall include;

  • The assessment protocol(s) to be used
  • The frequency of monitoring
  • Who will undertake the monitoring (project member or contract)

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When to monitor

Projects developers need to undertake the field survey 6-12 months (but no more than 12 months, except in exceptional circumstances) prior to each verification due-date to

  • demonstrate successful woodland establishment at year 5 and
  • assess actual tree growth and carbon sequestration rates from year 15 onwards. 

Starting the monitoring 6-12 months before the due date allows sufficient time for verification to be complete before the verification due-date. 

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What to monitor

Monitoring at year-5

The first verification due-date of more recent projects will be 5 years after the start date (For those projects validated since July 2013 who used version 1.2 of the Code or later). For projects validated earlier, the timing of first verification due-date may differ.

The purpose of monitoring at year 5 is to ensure that the site has been suitably stocked and established (as set out in the PDD) and that the trees/ site are in good health with the potential to grow and sequester carbon as predicted.  

The Survey Protocol for WCC Project at Year-5 V2.0 sets out requirements of the stratified sample plot survey.  It assesses:

  • Tree stocking density through number of seedlings and saplings of each species
  • Actual species mix
  • Tree health, tree damage, weed growth and tree protection (shelters/fencing)

The WCC Year 5 Data Collection and Calculation Sheet provides template sheets for data collection as well as a summary sheet which calculates stocking density from the results of the field survey.

Monitoring from year 15 onwards.

Verification due-dates for subsequent assessments will be 15 years after the project start date and then 10-yearly up to the project end date.  Thus monitoring of projects should start 6-12 months prior to each verification due-date. 

Small Projects:  We will publish soon a much reduced monitoring protocol for small projects to use from year 15 onwards.

Standard Projects:  Approved methodologies currently available for mensuration surveys are outlined in the Carbon Assessment Protocol.  The Protocol details 5 different methods of measuring the volume of timber (and therefore mass of carbon) in a woodland.  It also helps you to decide which method should be used for a particular woodland or situation:

  • Method A:  Felling of sample trees.  Whilst this is likely to give the most accurate results, it is not likely to be used in practice.
  • Method B:  Broadleaves 
  • Method C:  Conifers
  • Method D:  Pure even aged stands where measuring tree height is problematic
  • Method E:  Small woodlands (less than 1.25ha)

For each method the protocol takes the user through a number of steps to enable the final calculation of whole-tree carbon estimates:

  • Deciding upon the method to use
  • Defining the area to be assessed
  • Dividing the woodland into 'similar' areas (stratifying your woodland)
  • Deriving a tree stem volume estimate
    • Deciding what size and how many plots to assess
    • What to measure (diameter, height etc)
    • How to record measurements
  • Estimating a whole tree volume
  • Adding in estimates for the volume of foliage
  • Adding in estimates for the volume of roots and stump
  • Converting the volume estimates to Carbon Dioxide equivalents

Future developments in remote sensing techniques may reduce the requirement to undertake plot based assessments. Appropriate methods for carbon related woodland assessments shall be set out in the WCC Carbon Assessment Protocol and kept under review.

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Who can undertake the assessment?

The survey can be carried out by a suitably experienced landowner, project developer or independent third party.  The verifier may also offer to carry out the field survey on the project developer's behalf.  The verification body will always visit the site at the year 5 verification but will do so on a risk-based approach for subsequent verifications.  Monitoring carried out by an independent third party could be less likely to require a verification body field visit, however project developers should contact their chosen Verification Body to check the suitability of and independent surveyor prior to carrying out the survey.

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The science behind the assessment of carbon 

The methods of calculating the tree stem volume are detailed further in the Forest Mensuration Handbook.  The methods of estimating the mass of carbon from the tree volume are given in The Carbon Content of Trees and other Forestry Commission publications such as Forests, Carbon and Climate Change: the UK contribution

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Future Developments

  • We will develop a soil carbon assessment protocol.
  • We will develop a spreadsheet that will calculate carbon sequestered from the field survey measurements taken from year 15 onwards.
  • We will develop a 'small woods' monitoring and verification scheme for year 15 onwards. 
  • We will continue to investigate the potential for using less intensive methods of carbon assessment and look at alternative methods for monitoring carbon stocks in woodlands, for assessments from year 15 onwards.

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Last updated: 20th March 2018