Carbon monitoring for big and small

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by Jukka Miettinen| Published 

Authors: J. Van Brusselen, J. Miettinen, Y. Maximo, P.J. Verkerk

Industrialized countries are reporting their greenhouse gas emissions annually to the UNFCCC. These emission reports include emissions and removals of greenhouse gases from land use, land-use change and forestry. From early on, high hopes were put to remote sensing as a cost-effective tool to make inventories over large swathes of area without having to do excessive in-situ sampling.

Organizations responsible for greenhouse gas inventories at national and European level are not the only ones that require information on forest carbon. Besides typical forest inventories of their forest assets, forest owners and managers also want to quantify the impact of their management practices on forest carbon stocks and sinks.

While the accuracy of satellite-based inventories is deemed acceptable for inventories over large areas, large-scale assessment methods have so far not been performant enough to make accurate estimates for small-scale forestry projects, with error simply being too high to give meaningful results. Or in other words, the change we want to detect is smaller than the error on the measurement.

With the climate talks gearing up towards clearing the way for forest-carbon credits (though the issue was not settled at COP26 in Glasgow), methods are required to measure carbon changes accurately on both large and small areas and in reasonably short time-frames. The possibility to develop such methods is now coming into reach, and this is what the Forest Carbon Monitoring project is looking into.

With the increasing availability of high and very high-resolution satellite imagery and high point-density Lidar, which can be used to complement ground-based assessments, the development of more performant EO based monitoring approaches is feasible. To ensure that the methods to be developed will meet the users’ requirements, the project started with an analysis of the underlying policy frameworks and specific user needs – that set the performance requirements for the monitoring methods.

In the coming weeks (starting early 2022) we will publish a series of blog posts covering the main findings of this analysis. Stay tuned to learn more about our main findings on the affecting policies and key user requirements in forest biomass and carbon monitoring, for big and small players alike.

Wishing you all festive holidays and happy new year 2022!

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