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GCOS Land ECV - Above Ground Biomass

Vegetation biomass is a crucial ecological variable for understanding the evolution and potential future changes of the climate system. Photosynthesis withdraws CO2 from the atmosphere and stores carbon in vegetation in an amount comparable to that of atmospheric carbon. Currently, biomass is a net sink of carbon with a net flux to the land of 2.6 ± 1.2 Pg C yr−1, partially offset by changes in the amount of biomass due to deforestation and other land-cover changes acting as a net source of carbon of 1.1 ± 0.8 Pg C yr−1 (values from IPCC, 2013). Thus, biomass changes provide a net sink of about 1.5 Pg C yr−1, which is equivalent to approximately 20 % of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Vegetation systems have the potential either to sequester more carbon in the future or to contribute as an even larger source. Depending on the quantity of biomass, vegetation cover can have a direct influence on local, regional and even global climate, particularly on air temperature and water vapour. Therefore, a global assessment of biomass and its dynamics is an essential input to climate models and mitigation and adaptation strategies. The non-climate applications of biomass information are legion, as forest biomass is a major source of energy and materials across the planet, as well as being related to issues such as biodiversity, water quality and soil erosion.

Product Requirements:

  • Maps of AGB:
    • Frequency:  Annual
    • Resolution:  500 m-1 km (based on satellite  observations of 100-200 m)
    • Required Measurement uncertainty:  < 20 % error for biomass values > 50 t/ha, and 10 t/ha for biomass values ≤ 50 t/ha
    • Stability (per decade unless otherwise specified):  10 %
    • Standards/References:  No agreed standards but see: GOFC-GOLD (2015b); GFOI (2013)
    • Entity (Satellite):  WGClimate

Networks:

Data Sources: