David Skole

David Skole

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Professor, Global Ecology, Climate Change, Earth Observations
Department of Forestry



PhD in Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, 1992
MS in Environmental Science, Indiana University, 1980
AB in Biological Sciences, Indiana University, 1977

Laboratory: Global Observatory for Ecosystem Services

Research Interests

My research focuses on the relationship between forests, land use change, the global carbon cycle to understand global climate change, and identify mitigation and adaptation solutions. Our work for more than 3 decades has been part of an exciting field of global change research. Our research also supports actionable science for international development, sustainable development, and climate policy. We use earth observations to measure forest changes at very high resolution over continental scales, a monitoring approach we pioneered using Landsat satellite data. That work has been instrumental at mapping global deforestation at spatial resolution and area coverage which permits attribution of drivers. That work has also been important for quantifying and mapping forest degradation, thereby extending our measurements across the entire gradient of forest disturbance.  We are now pushing continental scale observational capabilities to down to very high spatial resolution, where we map and measure carbon changes in billion individual trees, specifically including trees outside of forests in agricultural lands over millions of square kilometers in Africa, Asia, and the Amazon.    

By taking this basic research out of the lab into applications, we are now putting an emphasis on delivering “actionable science” to support major policy-focused efforts to respond to climate change and the biodiversity crisis, particularly in the tropics. In recent years we have been leading the development of measurement, reporting and verification methods for forest carbon projects, and have developed and published several protocols for A/R and REDD projects. Our research bridges both the science and policy aspects of climate change and the global carbon cycle, with work centered on carbon finance and markets, with an emphasis on small holder agro-forestry systems in developing countries.

I do my work out of the Global Observatory for Ecosystem Services lab, which I direct with an international distributed team of scientists. We have a focus on measuring ecosystem services using earth observations, ground measurements, and models. Our primary focus is on forests and agro-forestry with a special attention to carbon management and carbon markets. Under the lab’s Carbon2Markets Project, we focus on combining value chains from carbon valuation and payments in carbon financial markets with agro-forestry natural products for small holders in developing countries. Carbon2Markets provides accurate measurements of carbon sequestration from reforestation and agro-forestry land management activities using high resolution remote sensing data, web-GIS tools, and modeling.

David Skole’s CV

2007 Nobel Peace Prize (IPCC) diploma

2007 Nobel Peace Prize (IPCC) letter


Selected Publications (* lead author, ** graduate student)

Skole, D.L.*, Mbow, C., Mugabowindekwe, M., Brandt, M.S., Samek, J.H. 2021. The importance of trees outside of forests as natural climate solutions. Nature Climate Change, 11(12): 1013–1016.

Skole, D.L*., Samek, J.H., Dieng, M., Mbow, C. 2021. The contribution of trees outside of forests to landscape carbon and climate change mitigation in West Africa, Forests, 12(12), 1652; doi.org/10.3390/f12121652

Skole, D.L*., Samek, J.H., Mbow, C., Chirwa, M., Ndalowa, D., Tumeo, T., Kachamba, D., Kamoto, J., Chioza, A. and Kamangadazi, F., 2021. Direct Measurement of Forest Degradation Rates in Malawi: Toward a National Forest Monitoring System to Support REDD+. Forests, 12(4), p.426.

Matricardi, E., D. L. Skole*, O. B. Costa, M.A. Pedlowski, J. H. Samek, E.P. Miguel. 2020. Long term forest degradation surpasses deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Science 369(6509): 1378-1382.

Mbow, C., Toensmeier, E., Brandt, M., Skole,D., Dieng,M., Garrity,D., and Poulter,B. 2020. Agroforestry as a solution for multiple climate change challenges in Africa. In, Deryng, D. (ed.), Climate Change and Agriculture, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 404 pp.

David, E**., Chhin, S., & Skole, D. L. 2018. Influence of Climate Variation on Growth of Tropical Tree Species in Western Kenya. International Journal of Environment and Climate Change, 8:295-307.

Mbow, C., Smith, P., Skole, D.L., Duguma, L., and Bustamante, M. 2014.  Achieving mitigation and adaptation to climate change through sustainable agroforestry practices in Africa." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6: 8-14.

Skole, D.L.*, J.H. Samek, M. J. Smalligan and W.H. Chomentowski.  2013. Forests, carbon and the global environment: new directions in research. In,  Land use and the Carbon Cycle:  Science and Applications in Human Environment Interactions, Brown, D.G.,  H.F. French, B.C. Reed, D. T. Robinson (eds.), Cambridge University Press,586pp.

Matricardi E.A.T**., Skole, D.L., Pedlowski, M.A., and Chomentowski, W. 2013. Assessment of forest disturbances by selective logging and forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon using Landsat data, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 34(4):1057-1086.

Skole, D.L.*, Samek, J.H. and Smalligan.M.J. 2011. Implications of allometry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(4):E12-E12.

Matricardi, E.A.T.**, Skole, D.L., Pedlowski, M.A., Chomentowski,W.H., and Fernades, L.C. 2010. Assessment of tropical forest degradation by selective logging and fires using Landsat imagery, Remote Sensing of Environment, 114:1117-1129.

Skole, D.L.* and B. M. Simpson. 2010. Climate change, land use, agriculture, and the emerging bioeconomy, In, Linkages of Sustainability, T. E. Graedel and Ester van der Voet (eds). 2010., MIT Press, Cambridge. ISBN: 0-262-01358-4

Matricardi, E.**, Skole, E., Cochrane, M.A. and Chometowski, W.H. 2007, Multi-temporal assessment of selective logging in the Brazilian Amazon using Landsat data, International Journal of Remote Sensing28(1)63-82

Matricardi, E.**, Skole, D.L., Cochrane, M.A., Qi, J. and Chomentowski, W.H. 2005. Monitoring Selective Logging in Tropical Evergreen Forests Using Landsat: Multi-Temporal Regional Analyzes in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Earth Interactions Journal. 9(24), 1-24.

Skole, D.L., Cochrane, M.A. Matricardi, E., Chomentowski, W.H., Pedlowski, M., Kimble, D. 2004. Pattern to process in the Amazon region: measuring forest conversion, regeneration, and degradation, In, Land Change Science: Observing, Monitoring and Understanding Trajectories of Change on the Earth’s Surface, Observing, Monitoring and Understanding Trajectories of Change on the Earth's Surface, Gutman et al. (eds.),,Kluwer Academic Publishers, 461pp

DeFries RS, Houghton RA, Hansen MC, Field CB, Skole D, Townshend J. 2002. Carbon emissions from tropical deforestation and regrowth based on satellite observations for the 1980s and 1990s,  Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States Of America 99(22): 14256-14261

Houghton, R.A., Skole, D.L. Nobre, C.A., Hackler, J.L.,  Lawrence, K.T. and Chomentowski, W.H. 2000.  Annual fluxes of carbon from deforestation and regrowth in the Brazilian Amazon, Nature, 403(6767): 301-303.

Skole, D.L.*, Justice, C.O. Townshend, J.R.G., and Janetos, A.C. 1997. A land cover change monitoring program: strategy for an international effort. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for  Global Change 2: 157-175.

Skole, D.L.*, Chomentowski, W.H., Salas, W.A. and Nobre, A.D. 1994. Physical and human dimensions of tropical deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, Bioscience 44(5): 314 - 322

Skole, D.L.* and Tucker, C.J. 1993. Tropical deforestation and habitat fragmentation in the Amazon - satellite data from 1978 to 1988. Science 260:1905-1910.


Contribution to Major Reports 

News and Press Reports


Remote Sensing of Earth System Science Journal

Skole is founding Section Editor for Ecosystems and Carbon Cycle, a hybrid (transformative) peer reviewed journal published by Springer Nature. This quarterly scientific journal publishes articles featuring the use of remote sensing data to study Earth processes. The journal’s interdisciplinary approach aims to include all aspects of the Earth Sciences including Atmospheric Sciences, Biogeosciences, Climate/Climate Change, Hydrology, the Cryosphere and Oceans, while placing great emphasis on articles that exist on the border of, or even transcend subfields. https://www.springer.com/journal/41976



FOR 360. Forest Ecosystems Carbon and Climate Change (3 credits asynchronous online). This is an advanced undergraduate course which examines the role of forested ecosystems of the world in climate change, covering topics ranging from the global carbon cycle to international climate change mitigation and adaptation policy; from tropical rain forests to trees outside of forests.

FOR 837. Forest Carbon Measurement and Monitoring (3 credits, asynchronous online). This graduate course cover the basic principles and methods for measuring carbon stocks and changes in forests, with direct application to climate change mitigation, policy (e.g. REDD+) and carbon financial markets. The course is also part of a 3-course graduate professional certificate program.