News & Events

Oct. 29, 2021

New geospatial platform tracks forest carbon from space

The Biomass Carbon Monitor provides global maps of annual change in carbon stocks held in forest biomass

Forests and vegetation play a major role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The Biomass Carbon Monitor, launched today, is the first geospatial platform to provide information about regional biomass carbon changes, which can be used as to track net gains and losses from forest policies.

The carbon stocks are derived from vegetation optical depth measurements from the European Space Agency (ESA) SMOS satellite (L-band VOD) and a map of above ground biomass from the ESA GlobBiomass project. Provided at 25x25km resolution, going back to 2011, the data will be updated on a quarterly basis.

The new platform aims to provide governments, forest managers, conservation agencies and citizens with science-based information to continuously track changes in forest-based carbon stocks and assess the carbon losses from extreme climate events in near-real time.

It was developed by Kayrros, in collaboration with the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) and the French Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (LSCE). The products have been used in the ESA CCI RECCAP-2 project, which supports and accelerates the analysis of regional carbon budgets based on the results of data-driven models and process-oriented Global Dynamic Vegetation Models. They have also been used in the ESA CCI Biomass project.

​​"This is a revolutionary tool that complements existing inventories and space observations with comprehensive information on how biomass carbon stocks are changing over time,” said Philippe Ciais, Research Director at the LSCE, and science lead for the RECCAP-2 project.

“These data, combined with information on the drivers of biomass variations such as fires, land use change, forest management and regional climate trends, will provide the scientific community and decision-makers with brand new insights and resources about the dynamic of carbon in forests,” concludes Jean-Pierre Wigneron, Research Director at INRAE, which created the Vegetation Optical Depth datasets used to quantify biomass carbon change.

ESA's Climate Change Initiative (CCI) aims to increase the availability and use of global, satellite-based Earth observation data for decision-making. The research programme was launched in response to UNFCCC requirements for systematic monitoring of the climate system. It is developing a suite of 23 global data records of key components of the climate system, known as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs).

The ECVs released by ESA CCI include long-term global datasets for fire, land cover and soil moisture, and are a major contribution to the evidence base used to understand climate change, which drives international action.