Background: Data availability in developing countries is known to be extremely varied and is one of the constraints for setting the national reference levels (RLs) for the REDD-plus (i.e. 'Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries') under the UNFCCC. Taking Thailand as a case study country, this paper compares three types of RLs, which require different levels of datasets, including a simple historic RL, a projected forest-trend RL, and a business-as-usual (BAU) RL.Results: Other than the finding that different RLs yielded different estimations on future deforestation areas, the analysis also identified the characteristics of each RL. The historical RL demanded simple data, but can be varied in accordance with a reference year or period. The forest-trend RL can be more reliable than the historical RL, if the country's deforestation trend curve is formed smoothly. The complicated BAU RL is useful as it can demonstrate the additionality of REDD-plus activities and distinguish the country's unintentional efforts.Conclusions: With the REDD-plus that involves widespread participation, there should be steps from which countries choose the appropriate RL; ranging from simpler to more complex measures, in accordance with data availability in each country. Once registered with REDD-plus, the countries with weak capacity and capability should be supported to enhance the data collection system in that country.
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