Aboveground carbon emissions from gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon

Ovidiu Csillik, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In the Peruvian Amazon, high biodiversity tropical forest is underlain by gold-enriched subsurface alluvium deposited from the Andes, which has generated a clash between short-term earnings for miners and long-term environmental damage. Tropical forests sequester important amounts of carbon, but deforestation and forest degradation continue to spread in Madre de Dios, releasing carbon to the atmosphere. Updated spatially explicit quantification of aboveground carbon emissions caused by gold mining is needed to further motivate conservation efforts and to understand the effects of illegal mining on greenhouse gases. We used satellite remote sensing, airborne LiDAR, and deep learning models to create high-resolution, spatially explicit estimates of aboveground carbon stocks and emissions from gold mining in 2017 and 2018. For an area of ∼750 000 ha, we found high variations in aboveground carbon density (ACD) with mean ACD of 84.6 (±36.4 standard deviation) Mg C ha-1 and 83.9 (±36.0) Mg C ha-1 for 2017 and 2018, respectively. An alarming 1.12 Tg C of emissions occurred in a single year affecting 23,613 hectares, including in protected zones and their ecological buffers. Our methods and findings are preparatory steps for the creation of an automated, high-resolution forest carbon emission monitoring system that will track near real-time changes and will support actions to reduce the environmental impacts of gold mining and other destructive forest activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2020


  • Madre de Dios
  • Planet Dove
  • REDD+
  • deep learning
  • forest degradation
  • gold mining
  • tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Aboveground carbon emissions from gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this