The COP28 climate conference will highlight the role of forests as major carbon sinks, with a study revealing their potential to absorb up to 226 gigatonnes of carbon. Despite this, forests are threatened by deforestation and global warming. The research, which integrates satellite and ground data, provides a more precise understanding of carbon storage in forests, underscoring the role of the GFZ in global carbon stock counts.
Large international study combines satellite and ground data
Natural carbon sinks will play a key role at the COP28 global climate conference in the United Arab Emirates. After oceans and soils, forests are the largest carbon sinks, meaning they absorb a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Exactly how much it is and how much it could be with better forest management is a difficult question.
In a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, a team of more than two hundred researchers from around the world present new estimates of storage potential. The study was coordinated by ETH Zurich, with important methodological contributions coming from the GFZ.
Carbon storage potential in forests
According to the study, forests should ideally absorb 328 billion tons (gigatonnes, Gt for short) of carbon. However, as many formerly forested areas are now used for agriculture and settlement, the potential is reduced to 226 Gt. 139 Gt of this (61%) could be achieved by protecting existing forests. The remaining 87 Gt (39%) could be achieved by reconnecting previously fragmented forest landscapes and managing them sustainably.
Challenges facing forests
Previous studies, which relied heavily on statistical evaluations and extrapolations, had arrived at results of a similar order. For comparison, the storage potential of 226 Gt is offset by annual emissions of just under 11 Gt of carbon (equivalent to 40 Gt of carbon dioxide).
However, instead of protecting forests and managing them sustainably, deforestation continues around the world. Added to this is the almost uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases, which accelerates global warming and therefore puts forests under greater pressure.
Advances in methodology
To arrive at their results, the researchers linked satellite data with studies on forest conditions and biomass extracted from the soil. They also integrated data on carbon storage in forest soils with dead wood and litter.
Martin Herold, one of the co-authors of the study and head of the Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics Section at the GFZ, underlines the importance of “systematically combining terrestrial and satellite carbon measurements, which opens new avenues for understanding carbon stocks and potentials.” global”.
The role of the GFZ in the global carbon stock count
Biomass analysis based on spatial data comes primarily from the GFZ, although the GFZ has also contributed soil data as part of a global network. Martin Herold: “The GFZ has invested heavily in this type of integrated research in the past and will continue to do so in the future. “Our robust monitoring infrastructure makes us an excellent and globally visible partner for important global analyzes on key topics such as how we can better assess and manage our carbon stocks for climate and sustainability.”
Behind this are also strategic questions for the GFZ: how can we better monitor and quantify changes on our dynamic planet? How can we improve our understanding of geographic resources and use them sustainably?
Reference: “Integrated global assessment of the carbon potential of natural forests” by Lidong Mo, Constantin M. Zohner, Peter B. Reich, Jingjing Liang, Sergio de Miguel, Gert-Jan Nabuurs, Susanne S. Renner, Johan van den Hoogen , Arnan Araza , Martin Herold, Leila Mirzagholi, Haozhi Ma, Colin Averill, Oliver L. Phillips, Javier G. P. Gamarra, Iris Hordijk, Devin Routh, Meinrad Abegg, Yves C. Adou Yao, Giorgio Alberti, Angelica M. Almeyda Zambrano, Braulio Vilchez Alvarado, Esteban Alvarez-Dávila, Patricia Alvarez-Loayza, Luciana F. Alves, Iêda Amaral, Christian Ammer, Clara Antón-Fernández, Alejandro Araujo-Murakami, Luzmila Arroyo, Valerio Avitabile, Gerardo A. Aymard, Timothy R. Baker, Radomir Bałazy, Olaf Banki, Jorcely G. Barroso, Meredith L Bastian, Jean-Francois Bastin, Luca Birigazzi, Philippe Birnbaum, Robert Bitariho, Pascal Boeckx, Frans Bongers, Olivier Bouriaud, Pedro HS Brancalion, Susanne Brandl, Francis Q. Brearley, Roel Brienen, Eben N. Broadbent, Helge Bruelheide, Filippo Bussotti , Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Ricardo G. César, Goran Cesljar, Robin L. Chazdon, Han YH Chen, Chelsea Chisholm, Hyunkook Cho, Emil Cienciala, Connie Clark, David Clark, Gabriel D Colletta, David A. Coomes , Fernando Cornejo Valverde, José J. Corral-Rivas, Philip M. Crim, Jonathan R. Cumming, Selvadurai Dayanandan, André L. de Gasper, Mathieu Decuyper, Géraldine Derroire, Ben DeVries, Ilija Djordjevic, Jiri Dolezal, Aurélie Dourdain, Nestor Laurier Engone Obiang, Brian J. Enquist, Teresa J. Eyre, Adandé Belarmain Fandohan, Tom M. Fayle, Ted R. Feldpausch, Leandro V. Ferreira, Leena Finér, Markus Fischer, Christine Fletcher, Lorenzo Frizzera, Damiano Gianelle, Henry B. Glick, David J. Harris, Andrew Hector, Andreas Hemp, Geerten Hengeveld, Bruno Hérault, John L. Herbohn, Annika Hillers, Eurídice N. Honorio Coronado, Cang Hui, Thomas Ibanez, Nobuo Imai, Andrzej M. Jagodziński, Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Vivian Kvist Johannsen, Carlos A. Joly, Tommaso Jucker, Ilbin Jung, Viktor Karminov, Kuswata Kartawinata , Elizabeth Kearsley, David Kenfack, Deborah K. Kennard, Sebastian Kepfer-Rojas, Gunnar Keppel, Mohammed Latif Khan,… Rodolfo M. Vasquez, Hans Verbeeck, Helder Viana, Alexander C. Vibrans, Simone Vieira, Klaus von Gadow, Hua-Feng Wang, James V. Watson, Gijsbert DA Werner, Susan K. Wiser, Florian Wittmann, Hannsjoerg Woell, Verginia Wortel, Roderik Zagt, Tomasz Zawiła-Niedźwiecki, Chunyu Zhang, Xiuhai Zhao, Mo Zhou, Zhi-Xin Zhu, Irie C. Zo-Bi, George D. Gann and Thomas W. Crowther, November 13, 2023, Nature.