New carbon map presented at Madrid UN Climate Change Conference
Biomass map (credit ESA) - Satellite data was used to create a map of above-ground Biomass for 2017-18. The new map uses optical, lidar and radar data acquired in 2017 and 2018 from multiple Earth observation satellites, and is the first to integrate multiple acquisitions from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission and Japan’s ALOS mission.
23 December 2019
A new map that shows change in carbon stored as biomass across the world’s forests and shrub-lands has been created using advanced satellite imagery.
The map has been developed by a research team managed by Professor Richard Lucas from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University and was presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) held in Madrid in December 2019.
According to Professor Lucas, much of the carbon in forests is stored in the rainforests of the wet tropics, but the new map shows that biomass is actually widely distributed across other biomes, particularly the dry tropics, subtropics and boreal zones.
“All of these biomes are experiencing unprecedented changes associated with human activities, which are being exacerbated by climate change”, he said.
“Knowing how much carbon these forests hold and how this has changed – and is changing – is a major step towards ensuring their long-term future and addressing climate change.”
The above-ground map was created using optical, lidar and radar data acquired in 2017 and 2018 from multiple earth observation satellites.
It is the first map to integrate satellite data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission and Japan’s ALOS mission, which has significantly improved its accuracy compared to previous similar maps.
As plants grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as biomass. This is then released back to the atmosphere through processes such as deforestation, disturbance or wildfires.
Assessing these dynamic changes is key to understanding the cycling of carbon and also for informing global climate models that help predict future change.
It is becoming increasingly important as decision-makers work towards the ‘Global Stocktake,’ an aspect of the global Paris climate deal that will periodically check international progress towards meeting emissions reduction commitments designed to limit global warming.
The next step for the research team is to develop a map covering the 2018-19 period, and to quantify changes between years.
Professor Lucas added: “A key strength of the maps derived from satellite observations is that they provide a globally consistent approach.
“Repeated and consistent measurements from space helps to track change in biomass distribution and density over time, and in turn informs policies that promote carbon emission reduction and forest conservation initiatives such as the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation programme.”