New Web-based Application to Compare Global Carbon Maps

Deforestation and forest degradation for agricultural expansion are the cause of 12 percent of human-derived global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forestation Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD).

Given this contribution to greenhouse gas levels, it is clear that monitoring deforestation is an important and sensitive topic. As a result, there is a need to develop tools that can accurately measure, map, validate, and compare forest carbon and related spatial maps.

In a recent post at Deforestationwatch, Dr. Ed Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences provides an interesting discussion on the monitoring of tropical deforestation.

This is Mitchard’s area of research. He outlines that a number of carbon stock maps have been produced in recent years, but they differ based on spatial resolution, geographic and temporal extent, and the methodology used to produce them. These differences make it difficult for stakeholders to compare the differences between the map products.

Consequently, in collaboration with Ecometrica, he has developed an interactive Web-based Global Carbon Map comparison tool. The mapping interface allows users to select an area of interest within the tropics, and the tool then generates a comparative analysis for each of the data sets. This permits the end-user to compare the total carbon stocks in the given area of interest.

Who are the potential end users for such a tool? Mitchard identifies main target users on a website which details the data behind the maps: Stakeholders who will need to measure their carbon stocks, those involved in carbon sequestration projects, countries who are eligible for REDD+, managing national parks and conservation areas, ecologists, and carbon modelers.

Applications of this type are becoming increasingly important. Another notable example of this type of Web-based tool is the Biomass Geo-Wiki, which allows users to interactively combine a range of above-ground biomass maps and to compare them with high-resolution satellite imagery.

It is clear that tools like the Global Carbon Map and the Biomass Geo-Wiki will lead to the provision of more consistent and accurate data on biomass and carbon, which are an implicit requirement to fully support REDD+ as well as the monitoring, reporting and verification frameworks of carbon inventories.