New NASA map reveals patterns of tropical forest carbon storage

May 31, 2011
Benchmark map of carbon stored in Earth’s tropical forests, covering about 2.5 million hectares of forests over more than 75 countries. The map can assist efforts by countries to produce estimates of carbon emissions by providing relatively fine-scale stocks of carbon and their level of uncertainty. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/Winrock International/Colorado State University/University of Edinburgh/Applied GeoSolutions/University of Leeds/Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux/Wake Forest University/University of Oxford

A NASA-led research team has used a variety of NASA satellite data to create the most precise map ever produced depicting the amount and location of carbon stored in Earth's tropical forests. The data are expected to provide a baseline for ongoing carbon monitoring and research and serve as a useful resource for managing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The new map, created from ground- and space-based data, shows for the first time the distribution of carbon stored in forests across more than 75 tropical countries. Most of that carbon is stored in the extensive forests of Latin America.

"This is a benchmark map that can be used as a basis for comparison in the future when the and its carbon stock change," said Sassan Saatchi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who led the research. "The map shows not only the amount of carbon stored in the forest, but also the accuracy of the estimate." The study was published May 30 in the .

Deforestation and contribute 15 to 20 percent of , and most of that contribution comes from . Tropical forests store large amounts of carbon in the wood and roots of their trees. When the trees are cut and decompose or are burned, the carbon is released to the atmosphere.

Previous studies have estimated the carbon stored in forests on local and large scales within a single continent, but there existed no systematic way of looking at all tropical forests. To measure the size of the trees, scientists typically use a ground-based technique, which gives a good estimate of how much carbon they contain. But this technique is limited because the structure of the forest is extremely variable and the number of ground sites is very limited.

To arrive at a carbon map that spans three continents, the team used data from the Geoscience System lidar on NASA's ICESat satellite. The researchers looked at information on the height of treetops from more than 3 million measurements. With the help of corresponding ground data, they calculated the amount of above-ground biomass and thus the amount of carbon it contained.

The team then extrapolated these data over the varying landscape to produce a seamless map, using NASA imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft, the QuikScat scatterometer satellite and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.

The map reveals that in the early 2000s, forests in the 75 studied contained 247 billion tons of carbon. For perspective, about 10 billion tons of carbon is released annually to the atmosphere from combined fossil fuel burning and land use changes.

The researchers found that forests in Latin America hold 49 percent of the carbon in the world's . For example, Brazil's carbon stock alone, at 61 billion tons, almost equals all of the in sub-Saharan Africa, at 62 billion tons.

"These patterns of carbon storage, which we really didn't know before, depend on climate, soil, topography and the history of human or natural disturbance of the forests," Saatchi said. "Areas often impacted by disturbance, human or natural, have lower carbon storage."

The carbon numbers, along with information about the uncertainty of the measurements, are important for countries planning to participate in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program. REDD+ is an international effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests. It offers incentives for countries to preserve their forestland in the interest of reducing carbon emissions and investing in low-carbon paths of development.

The map also provides a better indication of the health and longevity of forests and how they contribute to the global carbon cycle and overall functioning of the Earth system. The next step in Saatchi's research is to compare the carbon with satellite observations of deforestation to identify source locations of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere.  

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omatumr
1.7 / 5 (6) May 31, 2011
A NASA-led research team has used a variety of NASA satellite data to create the most precise map ever produced depicting the amount and location of carbon stored in Earth's tropical forests.


Sadly public faith in NASA has been destroyed and will not be restored until NASA and NAS explain their roles in:

a.) The recent climate scandal, and

b.) Observation summarized here [1,2 ] that suggest space-age data and observations have been hidden or manipulated for decades that would have revealed the true nature of Earth's unsteady heat source - the Sun [3].

1. "Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages (2011):

http://arxiv.org/...2.1499v1

2. "Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion", Meteoritics and Planetary Science 33, A97, 5011 (1998).

www.lpi.usra.edu/...5011.pdf

3. "Earth's Heat Source - The Sun", Energy and Environment 20, 131-144 (2009):

http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

whoyagonacal
3 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
I suggest to those weary of OKM's use of Physorg as his personal spamming platform report him for abuse.
astro_optics
1.8 / 5 (5) May 31, 2011
Don't think so whoyagonacal!
plaasjaapie
2 / 5 (4) Jun 01, 2011
Isn't it cute how they didn't publish the results for most of the US? Suppose that was deliberate? :-D
nevdka
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2011
Isn't it cute how they didn't publish the results for most of the US? Suppose that was deliberate? :-D


It was probably a deliberate decision to exclude most of the US because most of the US isn't covered by tropical forests.
climateadvocate
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2011
While it would be a very good idea to protect tropical forests for MANY reasons - I´m afraid, though, this won´t happen because we "need" to clear them for biofuels in order to "protect the climate", this being just one great example of actions taken by the AGW premise contradicting themselves - the role of carbon dioxide as a "greenhouse gas" is at least questionable. The corresponding science "is settled" no way.

See, for example: slayingtheskydragon.com
And here especially chapter 5 of the book, "Rediscovering R. W. Wood"
Also: slayingtheskydragon.com/en/blog

Or

Dr. David Evans, "Carbon Emissions Dont Cause Global Warming", 2007
icecap.us/images/uploads/Evans-CO2DoesNotCauseGW.pdf

Kind regards to all the scientists,

Matthias
omatumr
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 01, 2011
While it would be a very good idea to protect tropical forests for MANY reasons - I am afraid, though, this won't happen because we "need" to clear them for biofuels in order to "protect the climate", this being just one great example of actions taken by the AGW premise contradicting themselves - the role of carbon dioxide as a "greenhouse gas" is at least questionable. The corresponding science "is settled" no way.

See, for example: slayingtheskydragon.com
And here especially chapter 5 of the book, "Rediscovering R. W. Wood"
Also: slayingtheskydragon.com/en/blog

Or

Dr. David Evans, "Carbon Emissions Dont Cause Global Warming", 2007
icecap.us/images/uploads/Evans-CO2DoesNotCauseGW.pdf

Kind regards to all the scientists,

Matthias


Thanks, Matthias, for your attempt to bring reality to the alarmists crowd.

You are right.

Cutting down tropical forests allows the planting of crops for "biofuels."

Thanks for helping educate group-think alarmists.

Hang in there!
O. K.Manuel