Mapping global forest biomass using satellite imagery

Carbon-rich peat swamp forest ecosystem
February 10, 2018
Tropical forest
Using InSAR to determine above-ground biomass in tropical forests
March 12, 2018


Tropical forest canopy

Mapping global forest biomass using satellite imagery

Mapping global forest biomass using satellite imagery

“Biomass is a fundamental biophysical variable that quantifies the Earth’s living vegetation. It has profound social and economic importance as a source of materials and energy, and its state, dynamics and resilience have impacts on the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and, through carbon cycle feedbacks with climate, on the whole Earth system. Hence it is recognized by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) as an Essential Climate Variable (ECV).

The main purpose of the GlobBiomass project was to better characterize and to reduce uncertainties of AGB estimates by developing an innovative synergistic mapping approach in five regional sites (Sweden, Poland, Mexico, Eastern South Africa, Kalimantan) for the epochs 2005, 2010 and 2015 and for one global biomass map. The project team included the leading Earth Observation experts of Europe and is linked through Partnership Agreements with national bodies from Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and South Africa.

SAR-Based Estimation of AGB in different biomes

The GlobBiomass project provides substantial support for carbon account of forest ecosystems and for the development of an integrated observing system based on different active and passive satellite instruments (the Sentinels, ALOS-PALSAR, Landsat, ICESat, BIOMASS) together with key networks of ground measurements and LiDAR field studies.”


  • Development of regional aboveground biomass maps for Kalimantan for 2005, 2010, and 2015
  • Coordinating partners and realization of large-area land cover map
  • Determine uncertainty of biomass estimations
  • Production of biomass change maps

Multisensor approach

The project develops an innovative synergistic mapping approach by combining SAR, LiDAR and optical data sets, further supported by auxiliary EO-derived products (land cover, land surface temperature etc.) and in situ information. Furthermore, the biomass estimation will rely as much as possible on physically-based methods and adapt to regional forest and environmental conditions. The objectives are focused on delivering information of high scientific, environmental, social and political value.

Potential of application

Robust data and methodologies for estimating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from and removals by forests are crucial for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). The main purpose of the ESA DUE GlobBiomass project is to better characterize and reduce uncertainties of above ground biomass (AGB) estimates. A higher spatial resolution is important in order to make them a promising alternative building a forest monitoring or risk managing system, but also to achieve the objectives of REDD+, the Global Canopy Programme, UNEP-WCMC, and other programs protecting forests or analyzing carbon release at national and subnational levels.

Project partners

Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena (Germany), University of Sheffield (United Kingdom), GAMMA Remote Sensing AG (Switzerland), University of Leicester (United Kingdom), Institute of Geodesy and Cartography (Poland), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resources Management (Sweden), Wageningen University & Research Centre (The Netherlands), Max Planck Gesellschaft, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena (Germany), Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère (France), IIASA – International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria), VTT Technical Research Centre Of Finland Ltd (Finland), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), Forest Research Institute (Poland)

Funding source

European Space Agency (ESA)