New NASA Map of Tropical Forest Carbon Storage Inventory

In support of countries planning on participating in the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program, NASA’s JPL has produced the first accurate carbon inventory map for Earth’s tropical forests in 75 countries.

NASA carbon storage map

Source: NASA JPL

The map, devised from highly accurate terrestrial and space-based measurements (over 3 million data points) shows the amount, location and distribution of tropical forest carbon storage. Most of that carbon is stored in the extensive forests of Latin America (49%).

“This is a benchmark map that can be used as a basis for comparison in the future when the forest cover 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.”

Stunningly, 15 to 20 percent of global carbon emissions are as a result of deforestation and forest degradation. The majority comes from tropical forests because they store vast amounts of carbon in the above ground wood and in the roots. A large amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere when trees are removed, burned or left to decompose. The UN REDD program is designed to assist and reward countries for conservation and management of their tropical forests by placing a financial value on the stored carbon.

About 10 billion tons of carbon is released annually from both forest burning and land use changes in the 75 countries. In total these countries’ forests hold about 247 billion tons of carbon.

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